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Egyptian CEO indicted in patent fraud and murder charges

The former Egyptian CEO and founder of semiconductor company Aptix Corporation, Dr. Amr Mohsen, embroiled in a patent fraud case and a plot to ‘kill’ a US federal judge handling his case has been indicted on 23 criminal counts that carry a combined maximum total of over 100 years in prison.

The former Egyptian CEO of semiconductor company, Aptix Corporation, Dr. Amr Mohsen, 57, embroiled in a patent fraud case and a plot to ‘kill’ a US federal judge handling his case in San Francisco has been indicted on 23 criminal counts that carry a combined maximum total of over 100 years in prison.

The electronics engineer from Egypt founded the successful high tech firm in 1989. Mohsen the made millions through the 90s and was also awarded the Man of the Year award by the Egyptian American Organisation last year.

The good times didn’t last for long for Aptix. The Sunnyvale, California based company took a jolt when Dr.Amr was indicted last May on perjury charges stemming from his testimony in a civil patent case involving his firm. Mohsen who headed his privately held firm, supplied electronics companies with pre-silicon prototyping tools and platforms for embedded system-on-chip (SoC) design.

According to the search warrant affidavit sourced by ITP, from the US Department of Justice’s (USDOJ) records, Amr Mohsen, sought to have Judge William Alsup killed and also tried to have key witnesses in his case threatened or intimidated.

Mohsen is also accused of altering an engineering notebook to support his claim of inventing technology related to ‘field programmable’ circuit boards.

In April this year, Mohsen, was arrested just a few days before he was to stand trial after he allegedly violated his bail agreement by obtaining an Egyptian passport. Authorities contend he was planning to flee the country with US$20,000. That month, Aptix filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Since then, he has been held at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.

A recently released FBI affidavit outlines how Mohsen tried to mount a campaign of terror and intimidation from his jail cell in a bungled plot. Federal authorities allege that during the weekend of June 12, Mohsen approached a fellow inmate who later turned informant. Mohsen reportedly said: ‘I want a funeral for [Judge] Alsup, once he’s gone everything will go my way.’

According to the United States Attorney’s office, Mohsen then talked with his informant various ways to kill the judge, including a gas leak, and asked him: ‘Which [of the killing methods] is least traceable?”.

The informant then told Mohsen, that murdering a US federal judge had high stakes and could cost as much as US$25,000 for the job. Mohsen then said: ‘that’s [the money] very high. I heard it’s more like 10 [thousand dollars]”.

The affidavit shows how federal agents got the informant to tape discussions with Mohsen about the alleged plot to assassinate William H. Alsup. Authorities also taped incriminating conversations during which Mohsen reportedly discussed having the homes and cars of witnesses in his perjury case burned.

The FBI also supplied the informant with a Polaroid of a burning car later provided to Mohsen as proof a requested arson was completed. Just days later, Mohsen was recorded in a phone call from the jail to his daughter, who is studying psychology at college. According to the FBI, Mohsen questioned her at length about the definition and symptoms of psychosis.

After the plot against Alsup was revealed, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton replaced him.

At the time of Amr Mohsen’s arrest, he was in possession of a newly issued Egyptian passport in violation of his bail agreement and US$20,000 cash. Mohsen had also been overheard making flight reservations for the Cayman Islands.

Relating to the case, federal authorities have also charged Mohsen’s younger brother, Dr.Aly Mohsen, 52 accused of conspiracy to obstruct justice and perjury in the patent case.

The Springfield based medical doctor who owns shares of Aptix, in addition to soliciting the murder of the judge set to hear his trial Mohsen identified five trial witnesses by name and gave their home phone numbers to the informant.

He asked the informant to burn down the home of one witness and to stage a break-in to the car of another while leaving a threatening note. Mohsen later changed his mind about burning the witness’ home and instead commissioned the arson of that witness’ car in order to frighten the witness and dissuade the witness from testifying at the trial.

In a twist to the case, earlier this month, Dr. Aly Mohsen was arraigned in federal court in San Francisco where he pleaded innocent. The charges stem from a late-1990s civil suit filed in the California federal court by Aptix, the company founded and headed by his brother.

The indictment alleges that Aly participated in the fabrication of a notebook and that he made false statements as a witness in the trial. The notebook was used as evidence supporting the company’s argument for the patent rights of circuit boards Amr Mohsen claimed to have invented.

According to a news report, in Springfield’s local newspaper, federal authorities have indicted the physician on charges of obstructing justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice and perjury.

“It’s important to remember that this legal and financial nightmare is attributed to just one former Aptix employee-Amr Mohsen. Yes, he was founder and CEO, but he resigned his CEO position at the time of his imprisonment in April," says Richard Goering, managing editor of design automation for EE Times, familiar with the case.

“Nobody else from Aptix is accused of any wrongdoing. There is also no legal action pending against Aptix or accusation of patent infringement, source code or trade secrets theft, and no threat of an injunction against the company’s products,” adds Goering.

After the legal turmoil, Dr. Amr Mohsen, resigned in April 2004 to be replaced by Dr. Hamdi El-Sissi, who's the current CEO of Aptix.

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