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British billionaire Joe Lewis’ pilot pleads guilty to insider trading: ‘I knew at the time what I was doing was wrong’

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A pilot for British billionaire Joe Lewis has pleaded guilty to insider trading in New York, admitting to making lucrative trades based on tips from his boss. 

Patrick O’Connor, 67, appeared in federal court in Manhattan on Monday and pleaded guilty to conspiracy and securities fraud. The change in plea comes a month after Lewis, founder of Tavistock Group, confessed to his own role in the insider-trading case as part of a plea deal. 

O’Connor frequently flew Lewis across the country on his private jet, where the investor also shared confidential information with his pilots as a substitute for a formal retirement plan, according to the government.

“I knew at the time what I was doing was wrong,” O’Connor said, adding that he “deeply regretted” his actions. He faces up to 25 years in prison, but will likely receive a much lower sentence.

His colleague, fellow pilot Bryan “Marty” Waugh, is maintaining his innocence and is scheduled to go on trial in June. 

Waugh didn’t believe the information he received was material and non-public, his lawyer, Nicholas Lewin, said. “Nor did he bury his head in the sand,” Lewin, said.

Assistant US Attorney Nicolas Roos said the government was considering filing a superseding indictment against Waugh. 

In one of its most high profile insider trading cases in recent years, the Manhattan US Attorney’s Office charged Waugh, O’Connor and Lewis last July following a yearslong investigation. Lewis, 87, was accused of abusing his access to corporate boardrooms to gain sensitive information and pass it on to his pilots, love interests and staff. 

In 2019, according to an indictment, Lewis learned about the results of a Mirati Therapeutics clinical trial that would potentially push the company’s share price north of $100. Lewis, who through his hedge fund was one of Mirati’s largest shareholders, told O’Connor and Waugh to buy as much stock as they could. He also loaned the pilots $500,000 each to buy shares, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s complaint filed last July. 

In October of that year, O’Connor messaged a friend on WhatsApp to pass on the tip. “Boss said he really likes (Mirati) right now. Think we have people who know. Get it done amigo.”

O’Connor is due to be sentenced on May 29 and agreed to forfeit more than $180,000. 

Lewis, who used to own Tottenham Hotspur Premier League soccer team and has an estimated net worth of $7.4 billion, pleaded guilty to three charges in a deal that would likely reduce his sentence significantly. One of Lewis’ companies, Broad Bay Ltd., also pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a $50 million penalty. 

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