© The Star LedgerU.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman is pictured outside the federal courthouse in Newark.
A Long Island mortgage broker whose extensive cooperation with investigators helped break open one of the largest and longest-running insider trading frauds ever prosecuted was sentenced to just 2 years and 3 months in prison today, as the sentencing judge praised Kenneth Robinson for helping the FBI make damning secret recordings of his two co-conspirators.

Robinson, 45, of Long Beach, N.Y., got a sentence that was well below the roughly six to seven years recommended for him under federal sentencing guidelines. And his sentence came just a day after the same judge gave his two co-conspirators 12 years and nine years in prison, respectively.

The 12-year sentence handed down Monday to blue-chip corporate lawyer Matthew Kluger, a central figure in a 17-year insider-trading scheme that funneled $37 million in illicit profits to three white-collar professionals, is being hailed by U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman as the longest sentence ever imposed in an insider-trading case in the United States.

"It's very clear to me that only one of the three defendants (charged in the case) is literally living in this world, living and breathing the air that we breathe," said U.S. District Judge Katharine Hayden as she credited Robinson for both his cooperation with authorities and contriteness, while also distinguishing him from co-defendants who she said may still not grasp the impact and wrongness of their crimes.

"Of the three defendants, Mr. Robinson is the only person I can say that about," Hayden added, referring again to her comment that he seemed to appreciate the full gravity of his crime. "The other two see the world in a very different way."

Robinson, who wore a dark-blue suit and appeared somber-faced throughout the hearing in Newark, pleaded guilty in April 2011 - just days after the arrests and bust was announced by Fishman as the largest insider-trading case ever handled by New Jersey's U.S. Attorney's Office. The broad-shouldered, strapping mortgage broker admitted then to being the "middleman" between a big law-firm New York and Washington attorney, Kluger, and a longtime New York stock trader, Garrett Bauer.

For more than 17 years - starting back in 1994 - Robinson admitted, he'd gotten key insider information on Fortune 500 corporate merger and acquisition deals from Kluger - who had firsthand knowledge of the deals while working at prestigious firms like Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati PC - and then Robinson would pass on that information to Bauer. Bauer would then typically buy stock for the trio in companies involved in the deals before the deals happened, before later selling off the shares at hugely higher values.

"For the last year and three months, there hasn't been an hour that's gone by that I haven't thought about the terrible mistakes I made," Robinson told Judge Hayden just minutes before he was sentenced, his voice breaking with emotion at times, his eyes tearing up. "I'm truly ashamed for my actions."

A husband and father, Robinson said that after FBI agents showed up at his Long Beach, N.Y. home with a search warrant in March 2011, he decided within hours to cooperate fully, which soon led to him making secret tapes of long phone calls with his co-conspirators, who often talked on the tapes about how to cover up their decades of insider trading -- including how they'd gone to extremes such as throwing out iPhones and computers and suggesting that Robinson burn $175,000 in cash bills that may show fingerprints.

"I was so afraid I wouldn't be able to make those calls," Robinson said of the telephone conversations he initiated and helped the FBI record. "These were my friends"

"I didn't want to hurt them, but it was the right thing to do, I knew it," he added, just moments after saying, "I knew I had to put my family first."

Judge Hayden later said of Robinson's words to the court, "They are heartfelt," before adding, "One does generally have the sense that Mr. Robinson, of these three defendants, will return to the world and resume a place in it where he can hold his head up." She also indicated that he should be rewarded for following through with his cooperation with investigators, who in turn had recommended to the judge that Robinson get a sentence below the guidelines range.

On Monday, Hayden made headlines when she sentenced Kluger to 12 years in prison, saying during his hearing, "People stay out of the stock market, in part, because they think it's skewed toward the insiders." She added, "The heart of the scheme was a lawyer earning hundreds of thousands of dollars at white-shoe firms, one after another."

Kluger, after the hearing, was outspoken in calling the sentence he got "outrageous." He also noted sarcastically that the sentence he received was actually one year more than the 11 years given to Raj Rajaratnam in New York last year in what has been called the largest insider trading fraud ever uncovered. "I guess it's better to steal $68 million and be unwilling to accept what he did," Kluger said, adding that he pleaded guilty to his crime last year and admitted wrongdoing, while Rajaratnam took his case to trial.

Bauer, who got nine years Monday, also pleaded guilty last year - though both his and Kluger's plea came after they had been charged and knew of the FBI's extensive recordings of their own words that were damning.

During his guilty plea in 2011, Robinson -- who admitted to both conspiracy to commit securities fraud and two counts of securities fraud -- also said he bought stock ahead of deals at least twice without using Bauer. One was the buying shares of 3Com before its 2009 acquisition by Hewlett-Packard, and another involved McAfee.

The three co-conspirators in the case admitted to trading on some 30 deals over the 17 years, including Bain Capital LLC's 2007 acquisition of 3Com Corp. and Oracle Corp.'s 2009 buying of Sun Microsystems, Inc.

As the FBI closed in last year on Kluger and Bauer, the men seemed panicked in the recorded phone conversations. In one phone detailed in the government's complaint, Bauer said,"I can't sleep. I can't sleep. I am waiting for the FBI to ride into my apartment. And I am on edge all night thinking that they're coming in."

Source: The Star-Ledger