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Samsung exec heads for prison over price fixing

U.S.-based executive agrees to plead guilty for his part in fixing prices of memory chips used in PCs and cell phones.

An executive in the U.S. unit of South Korea's Samsung Electronics agreed to plead guilty and serve prison time for taking part in price-fixing in the computer memory chip business, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Samsung marketing executive Thomas Quinn is the fourth Samsung manager to plead guilty in the U.S. government's memory chip probe. He will serve eight months in prison and pay a $250,000 fine under the plea deal, the department said on Thursday.

If Quinn had been convicted at trial, he could have faced up to three years in prison and a larger fine.

The U.S. government said the conspiracy drove up the price of chips used in personal computers, servers, cell phones, cameras and game consoles.

Quinn was part of the price-fixing conspiracy in his capacity as vice president of marketing for memory products at Samsung Semiconductor, a U.S. subsidiary of Samsung Electronics, the government said.

He conspired to fix the price of memory chips sold to computer makers around 2001 and 2002, the department said. The scheme directly affected computer makers Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Apple Computer, Gateway, Sun Microsystems and Compaq Computers, which was bought by HP in 2002.

In October 2005, Samsung pleaded guilty to price-fixing and paid a $300 million fine. Fines totaling more than $731 million have resulted from the investigation.

Earlier this year, four Hynix Semiconductor executives pleaded guilty and, in 2004, four Infineon Technologies executives also did.