Photo: Information Week
Late on Wednesday night, we received a call from prison from alleged inside trader Winifred Jiau.She was very softly spoken, and the noise and clamor of the jail was often louder than she was in our fifteen minute talk.
We were expecting the call (as we explain below) and knew when our phone rung at 11.52 pm, it was Wini.
We answered. A prerecorded voice said:
“You have received a collect call from… Winifred Jiau… Press 0 to accept this call.”
We pushed zero and all of a sudden our ears met the din of a California prison, and then:
Katya: Hello… Wini?
Wini: “Hel-hello? This is Winifred Jiau.” Swifty followed by the background drone of hundreds of prisoners rising again – that loud humming of the insides of Wini’s temporary home remained throughout the the call, and often drowned out our timid caller.
Katya: “Hi Wini. Thank you for calling…”
And so began our first ever telephone call from a prison.
Wini: “I need to ask you something. I need you to find me a lawyer.”
To recap, Wini was the seventh person and first woman arrested in the FBI’s sprawling insider trading case, which has already ensnared a ton of hedge funds, mutual funds and tech consultants that worked for California expert network firm, Primary Global Research.
She’s accused of selling inside information to portfolio managers at three hedge funds for $200,000, including tips on Nvidia Corp. and Marvell Technology, when she was working for Primary Global.
We’d been contacted the day before by a friend of Jiau’s who told us that Wini wanted to tell her story; she needed a lawyer in New York and was hoping more media exposure may help her to recruit a white collar criminal attorney who is willing to work pro-bono. The same email obviously went out to a whole host of media organisations. Of course we replied immediately saying we wanted to talk to her.
We were told that she can only call us at certain times and to arrange to have a special service organised on our phone so she could call us from jail. We said fine, and call she did.
“Perhaps I can eventually talk to you more,” Wini said at first. “But I need a lawyer in New York who can help me make bail. I really need a councilor.”
She thinks her current lawyer, Mark Goldrosen, “did the best in California,” but said her understanding is that the case is being prosecuted in New York’s jurisdiction and she believes she will end up in New York for her trial.
Jiau was denied bail earlier this week after a judge said she was a flight risk (she is not married; has no children; and her family lives in Taiwan), after an earlier attempt get out of prison failed when the person who had initially agreed to guarantee the $250,000 bail, bailed on her.
She continued to explain to us that her priority is to to make bail, and she desperately needed the help of “anyone who can help me make bail in a New York bail hearing.”
“It’s just one-side story now you hear” she said. She also asked us how people are reacting to the story and whether it’s something people are talking about.
“Do people want me to win or lose?” she asked.
We asked about her emotional state, and about what it was like to be imprisoned.
“I don’t really know how to answer that question,” she began. “It’s awkward.. things I haven’t experienced in my life before.”
A Reuters reporter who visited Jiau in jail yesterday morning described the situation,
Jiau, 43, a very thin woman whose white jail ID bracelet dwarfed her wrist, said she was sharing a cell with another prisoner. The institution serves bologna every day, a food that the dual U.S. and Taiwan citizen said was unfamiliar to her.
“The only thing normal is milk,” said Jiau, who wore a yellow jumpsuit and glasses decorated with flower patterns.
A source familiar with the situation told us that Jiau thought she was being courted as a cooperating witness when the FBI first contacted her in December. Jiau confirms this and told Reuters, “Initially the FBI just wanted me to be a cooperating witness,” but that now she is ambivalent about whether to cooperate or not.
As we know, those who cooperate in insider trading cases tend to be treated far more kindly by the courts than those who refuse.
Jiau told us her trial date is yet to be set.
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