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The former general counsel of Long Island, N.Y.-based Symbol Technologies, Leonard Goldner, pleaded guilty last week to conspiring to obstruct the collection of his and other executives’ taxes. The company has been accused by the Eastern District U.S. Attorney’s Office of falsifying its financial statements. Goldner’s crime, however, related to his and others’ underpaying federal taxes after exercising stock options. Under the terms of a plea agreement, Goldner faces up to 5 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000. He also will forfeit $2 million he gained through his crime. Goldner is the sixth executive at Symbol to plead guilty since an investigation began in 2001, when the government received an anonymous tip. His plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge William Wall in Central Islip followed by a month a plea to securities fraud and obstruction of justice by former Computer Associates’ general counsel Steven Woghin. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn prosecuted both cases. Goldner was indicted with seven other executives at Symbol Technologies. The 25-count indictment, sought by Eastern District U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf in June, charged company leaders with accounting and securities fraud. Based in Holtsville, Long Island,N.Y., the company is among the leading developers of wireless and mobile computing and bar code reading devices with more than 5,000 employees in 92 offices worldwide. Last year, its revenues topped $1.5 billion. The executives allegedly rigged financial statements through a variety of accounting schemes to match investor expectations. In all, the government claims, executives overstated pre-tax earnings by $530 million from 1998 to 2003. In June, Symbol Technologies settled civil suits with the Securities and Exchange Commission and class action cases for $139 million. The U.S. attorney specifically charged Goldner with nine counts of mail and wire fraud and tax-related actions for his alleged role in manipulating the company’s stock option plan. Prosecutors said he evaded tax payments on his own behalf and for other executives and profited at the company’s expense. He was not charged with securities fraud, but the SEC did charge him with securities fraud in a civil action. Goldner held the general counsel position at Symbol Technologies from 1990 through his resignation in June 2003. The government’s case against him centered on the company’s stock option plan. Goldner falsified dates on documents showing when the options were exercised, substituting dates that had a lower market price and reducing the tax consequences of the transaction. A person exercising an option must pay taxes on the difference between the option price and price of the stock on the date the options are exercised. Goldner’s actions amounted to tax evasion and robbed Symbol of legitimate tax deductions, prosecutors said. In 2002, Goldner reduced his reported income by $150,000 through the tax evasion scheme, said the government. “As Symbol’s general counsel, the defendant was required to ensure that this public company fully complied with the law,” Mauskopf said in a statement. “Instead, he repeatedly broke the law in order to enrich himself and several other top executives at the expense of Symbol, its investors and the taxpaying public.” Goldner’s defense lawyer, Andrew Geist of O’Melveny & Myers, the former senior associate director of enforcement at the SEC, could not be reached for comment.

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