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Ex-Jefferies bond trader Litvak guilty on one of 10 fraud counts

By Andy Thibault

By Andy Thibault

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (Reuters) - A federal jury found former Jefferies Group bond trader Jesse Litvak guilty for a second time for defrauding customers on bond prices, but acquitted him on nine of the 10 counts he faced.

The verdict on Friday by jurors in New Haven, Connecticut on the sixth day of deliberations is a mixed result for prosecutors trying to crack down on suspicious sales tactics on Wall Street.

A different jury found Litvak guilty on all 10 securities fraud counts plus other charges in March 2014. That verdict and a two-year prison sentence were overturned on appeal in December 2015.

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Litvak's lawyer Dane Butswinkas declined to comment Friday.

Litvak, 42, of Boca Raton, Florida, faces up to 20 years in prison at his April 21 sentencing. Six other former traders face similar charges.

"We are confident that these prosecutions have acted as a forceful disincentive to market participants tempted to commit securities fraud," U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly said.

Litvak, who was a Jefferies managing director, was accused of generating $2.25 million of illegal profit by misleading customers including AllianceBernstein and Soros Fund Management about bond prices from 2009 to 2011.

Prosecutors said Litvak was motivated by greed, and that his "lies" caused customers to overpay for bonds they bought and accept lower prices for bonds they sold.

But defense lawyers said Litvak's customers were sophisticated, with a deep well of talent and resources, and would be skeptical if prices that Litvak quoted looked wrong.

Chief Judge Janet Hall presided over both of Litvak's trials. She urged jurors to reach a verdict on Wednesday after they appeared deadlocked on two counts.

"It's a good verdict for defense lawyers, but less so for the client who still faces risk of significant jail time," said J. Bruce Maffeo, a Cozen O'Connor partner and former federal prosecutor.

Litvak worked in the Stamford, Connecticut, office of Jefferies, a unit of Leucadia National Corp <LUK.N>.

Three former Nomura Holdings Inc <8604.T> traders - Ross Shapiro, Michael Gramins and Tyler Peters - have pleaded not guilty to similar charges and face trial May 4. David Demos of Cantor Fitzgerald & Co pleaded not guilty on Dec. 9.

Matthew Katke and Adam Siegel from Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc <RBS.L>, could withdraw their 2015 guilty pleas under some circumstances upon an acquittal of Litvak.

Katke's lawyer Richard Albert said: "We are reviewing the verdict with interest." Lawyers for Siegel did not respond to requests for comment.

The case is U.S. v. Litvak, U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut, No. 13-cr-00019.

(Reporting by Andy Thibault in New Haven, Connecticut; Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Grant McCool)

 
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