Alfred Teo Sr. pleaded guilty to insider trading in June 2006, nearly two years after he was indicted in federal court. He was accused of sharing inside information about Musicland Stores Corp., where he was the largest shareholder, and Cirrus Logic Inc., where he served as a director.
``We didn't know that much about the justice system,'' said Mark Teo, his son, in a recent interview. ``At some point in the investigation and the trial, we became educated and we decided it was better to cut our losses and just plead.''
Teo Sr., chairman and chief executive officer of Sigma Plastics Group, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., to 30 months in prison and fined $1 million. He paid the money and in May 2007 began serving his time in Morgantown, W.Va. Teo said recently he copped the plea in part to spare business associates and his family the emotional drag of a prolonged trial, but the sentencing hit his wife, Annie, especially hard.
``We've been married 30-some years and we'd never been apart more than a few days. I traveled a lot, but I always managed to come home for a few days. It hurt,'' Teo said, his eyes filling with tears.
While behind bars, Teo got to know his fellow inmates including former Rep. Robert Ney, R-Ohio, then serving time on corruption charges related to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, and Richard Hatch, the winner of the original Survivor reality television show who later pleaded guilty to income tax evasion.
``When I first got there, I knew I would survive,'' Teo said. He busied himself exercising, learning to play chess and teaching business classes to other inmates. ``From prison, I've become stronger mentally and physically and I appreciate life more.''
He was released after 11 months.
Although being separated from his family and work was frustrating, Teo said he was not concerned about having to rebuild the Lyndhurst-based plastics business once he got out.
``Besides my family doing a good job, I have good partners. I have a bunch of great managers and 5,000 super workers that are all behind me, and I appreciate very much my bankers, all my suppliers and all my customers. They stuck by me through thick and thin,'' he said.