The Securities and Exchange Commission has a mission to protect investors in California and around the country. On Feb. 13, the SEC took a step toward that goal by filing federal charges against a former high-ranking attorney with Apple Inc. The suit alleges the defendant used his inside knowledge to profit illegally.

According to the lawsuit, the attorney used his position with Apple to sell off stock in the company shortly before a negative earnings announcement. The attorney, who was the corporate secretary, profited by at least $382,000 through the avoidance of losses that he would have otherwise incurred, according to court filings. The complaint alleges that the attorney liquidated more than $10 million in Apple stock shortly before the July 21, 2015 earnings report. That report saw the per-share price of Apple drop by 4 percent.

The SEC charged only the attorney in the case. Apple was not charged with any wrongdoing, and the SEC noted the company’s policies against insider trading. They include blackout periods in which employers are barred from selling off stock. As it turned out, the defendant was responsible for writing some of those guidelines. In addition to the civil lawsuit, the defendant also faces federal criminal charges in an action brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey.

Securities fraud is a serious white-collar crime. If convicted, this defendant faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison as well as a maximum fine of $5 million. People who have been charged with these types of federal crimes might find it advisable to meet with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so that a strategy to combat the allegations can be constructed.