10 years later, indicted tech CEO pleads guilty to one count of securities fraud

Jacob ' Kobi'' Alexander, the former Comverse Technology Inc. chief executive officer
Naashon Zalk | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Indicted Comverse Technology founder Jacob "Kobi" Alexander pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud in a federal court in Brooklyn on Wednesday afternoon, almost exactly 10 years after moving to Africa in what the government says was a clear attempt to flee prosecution.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis denied bail, arguing that Alexander's intelligence and guile are clear indications that he cannot be trusted. Alexander will be sent to a maximum-security facility between now and his sentencing on Dec. 16. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

After the hearing, lead defense attorney Benjamin Brafman told CNBC, "We are bitterly disappointed by the judge's ruling, but he's the judge and I'm not."

Defense attorneys argued he should be set free on $25 million bond pending his sentencing. In a court filing Monday, Brafman said Alexander is not a flight risk.

"It would be pointless for Mr. Alexander to come to the United States after spending 10 years in Namibia in order to plead guilty and only then to flee," Brafman wrote, adding that Alexander, 64, could have stayed in Namibia "forever."

Alexander moved his family to Namibia in July 2006, as prosecutors were preparing a sweeping fraud case against the tech executive. A federal grand jury ultimately indicted him on 35 counts including conspiracy, fraud, obstruction of justice and witness tampering, in a 15-year scheme to manipulate Comverse options. But Brafman argued that because Alexander left before he was charged, he did not flee. And now that he has left Namibia, he has no place else to flee to.

Prosecutors paint a much different picture in a filing Wednesday morning. Arguing that Alexander is "cunning and resourceful," they want him held without bail. Otherwise, they say, "the government is confident that the defendant could find his next Namibia should he so choose."

The government's letter includes newly released details of Alexander's maneuvers as prosecutors were bearing down on him during the summer of 2006 amid public fury over a wave of accounting-fraud cases in the wake of the dot-com bubble.

In June 2006, the letter says, Alexander took his family to his native Israel ostensibly on vacation just as prosecutors were putting the final touches on their case.

By mid-July, the government was in discussions with Alexander's attorneys, but prosecutors demanded he return from Israel before talks went any further.

By July 27, they say, Alexander's lawyers had worked out arrangements for him to surrender in New York the following day. Instead, he traveled from Israel to Germany and then to Namibia, where he remained for the next 10 years.

The government accused Alexander in a criminal complaint on July 31, 2006, with masterminding the alleged scheme that allowed Alexander and others to buy the stock at deep discounts, fleecing shareholders out of millions of dollars. In September, a federal grand jury indicted him.

The purpose of Alexander's travel was clear, the government said: "to avoid criminal prosecution."

Both sides made their case before Garaufis in Brooklyn, a Clinton appointee best known for hearing racial discrimination cases against the New York City Fire Department.

Garaufis has also been the judge in the Comverse case from the start, and noted in today's hearing that he was the one who signed the warrant for Alexander's arrest in 2006.

"Spare me," he said in denying bail, his voice rising.

"I wasn't born yesterday."

Alexander's attorneys did not indicate whether they would appeal.