British billionaire Joe Lewis has surrendered to U.S. authorities in Manhattan and is expected to appear in court later on Wednesday to face insider trading charges, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan said.
Federal prosecutors accused Lewis, whose family trust controls a majority of the Tottenham Hotspur soccer team, with orchestrating a “brazen” insider trading scheme by passing tips about companies in which he invested to friends, personal assistants, private pilots and romantic partners.
Two of Lewis’ pilots, Patrick O’Connor and Bryan Waugh, were also charged with insider trading securities fraud. They reaped millions of dollars in illegal profit from Lewis’ tips, prosecutors said.
Lewis’ lawyer David Zornow said prosecutors “made an egregious error” in charging Lewis, 86, and said his client had come to the United States voluntarily to defend himself against the charges.
Lawyers for O’Connor, 66, and Waugh, 64, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. They have both also been arrested, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors said that in 2019 Lewis lent each pilot $500,000 and encouraged them to buy stock in oncology company Mirati Therapeutics before it released favorable clinical results. O’Connor texted a friend that he thought “the Boss has inside info,” according to the indictment.
After Mirati announced the positive results, its share price increased 16.7% in one day, and both pilots repaid Lewis for his loans.
Separately on Wednesday, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil insider trading case against Lewis O’Connor, Waugh and Lewis’ then-girlfriend Carolyn Carter.
A lawyer for Carter, who is not facing criminal charges, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
ALLEGED CRIMES SPANNED 2013-2021
Lewis, who founded the investment firm Tavistock Group, was charged with 16 counts of securities fraud and three counts of conspiracy, for alleged crimes spanning from 2013 to 2021.
He is worth $6.1 billion, according to Forbes magazine. He controlled board of director seats at several companies and deputized employees to serve on boards, which gave him access to inside information, according to prosecutors.
“None of this was necessary. Joe Lewis is a wealthy man,” Damian Williams, the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement.
Insider trading has long been a focus of Williams’ office, dating to 2009 when a crackdown began under one of his predecessors, Preet Bharara.
O’Connor and Waugh, who are residents of New York and Virginia, respectively, each face seven counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy.
A spokesperson for Tottenham said in a statement: “This is a legal matter unconnected with the club and as such we have no comment.”