Refco Lawyer Found Guilty

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A former lawyer was found guilty on Friday of a broad conspiracy in the fraud that caused the 2005 collapse of commodities broker Refco Finance Holdings LLC in a partial verdict by a jury whose deliberations became heated this week.

The Manhattan federal court jury ruled that longtime outside Refco counsel Joseph Collins was guilty in five out of 14 counts in the indictment over the $2.4 billion fraud, with nine counts declared a mistrial.

The jury began deliberations on July 1, but the jurors became contentious on Wednesday, according to a court transcript of a juror note made public on Thursday, with one juror accusing another of threatening to cut off his finger.

Before accepting the partial verdict, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Patterson noted the “acrimony” that had occurred in the jury room and asked each panel member to confirm their decision in open court.

One juror, a 48-year-old financial specialist who asked not to be identified, told reporters after the verdict that the juror who wrote the note “had a tendency to point his fingers at people. When he did it to her, she just lost it.”

According to a court transcript, the juror wrote in a note to the jury foreman that another juror “In a loud and belligerent manner … threatened to ‘cut off your (my) finger.'”

He said she made the statement twice and also said: “I will have my husband take care of you.”

Collins was charged in a 14-count indictment last year on charges of fraudulently trying to obtain hundreds of millions of dollars in revolving lines of credit.

The 12-person jury found him guilty of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, money laundering and making false filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He was also found guilty of two other counts of securities fraud and two other counts of wire fraud.

Collins, of Winnetka, Illinois, is out on bail. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 3, when he faces a possible maximum of five years imprisonment on the conspiracy conviction and 20 years each on the other counts.

In the Refco fraud, former Chief Executive Officer Phillip Bennett is serving a 16-year prison sentence and former President Tone Grant is serving a 10-year prison term.

The case is USA v Collins 07-01170 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan)

(Reporting by Grant McCool and Edith Honan, editing by Matthew Lewis)