NZ’s biggest white collar crim wins early release from LA jail

With their thick Bronx accents and their company’s aggressive style, the senior managers of US software company Computer Associates often came over like something out of the Sopranos.

But CA founder Charles Wang never faced any courtroom heat over his company's cooked books.

Instead, it was chief executive Sunjay Kumar and global head of global sales Stephen Richards – an ex-pat New Zealander – who faced multiple counts of securities fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of justice in the US.

US authorities alleged that in the 2000 financial year, backdating of hundreds of contracts led to revenue being inflated by 25%, 53%, 46% and 22% for the four quarters.

Contracts dates were altered and paperwork was doctored to hide the practice from CA's external auditors, according to reports at the time.

An internal investigation, began in 2002 in an attempt to mollify the SEC, pointed the finger at Mr Richards. Later, the New Zealander said he had been irresponsible and naive rather than corrupt.

Although widely blamed, Mr Wang escaped any punishment.

Mr Kumar received a 12-year sentence.

And in November 2006, Mr Richards, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to seven years’ jail at a double razor-wired facility 200km north of Los Angeles.

Other charges against the company – which agreed to pay shareholders $US225 million in restitution – were dismissed.

Today came the surprise news that Mr Richards is to be freed after just 44 months.

His lawyers successfully appealed his original conviction, The Wall Street Journal reported today.

In August, a federal appeals court ordered that he be re-sentenced because the district judge failed to give Richards credit for accepting responsibility for his actions.

Last week, judge Leo Glasser in Brooklyn re-sentenced him to time served.

Mr Richards, who had been living in Long Island, New York before his sentencing, expects to be deported immediately upon his release, the Journal reported.

He plans to join relocate to Australia to join his wife (an Australian) and son, who was an infant when he was sentenced.

MORE: Read Peter Griffin's January 2007 interview with Stephen Richards, shortly before he entered jail.