By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former technology analyst at expert networking firm Primary Global Research LLC avoided jail time on Thursday after a judge praised his "very substantial assistance" in cooperating with a government insider-trading investigation.

Bob Nguyen, 34, who pleaded guilty in January 2011 to leaking confidential corporate information to hedge funds, received two years of probation from U. S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in federal court in New York.

"I'm very sorry for what I've done, and I will never do it again," Nguyen told Rakoff before the sentence was imposed.

Rakoff said Nguyen's sentence should not be seen as a suggestion that insider trading is a minor issue. Instead, he said, it was a reflection of the fact that such prosecutions frequently require cooperation to succeed.

The Justice Department's insider trading probe has secured 75 convictions since 2009, according to a spokeswoman. In July, prosecutors indicted the $14 billion hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors LLP, which has pleaded not guilty to insider trading charges.

"The very fact that they have uncovered so many instances of it illustrates how widespread this crime is and how much deterrence is needed," Rakoff said.

According to prosecutors, Nguyen provided information that led to the successful prosecutions of a number of consultants, including Walter Shimoon, a former executive at Flextronics International Ltd who worked as a consultant for Primary Global.

Shimoon pleaded guilty and avoided a prison sentence after helping prosecutors build a case against James Kinnucan, who ran Broadband Research and was sentenced to more than four years in prison after pleading guilty to fraud and conspiracy.

Nguyen also testified at the trial of former Primary Global executive James Fleishman, who was sentenced in December 2011 to 2-1/2 years in prison.

Primary Global is one of several expert networking firms, which match hedge funds with industry experts.

Nguyen had also agreed to pay restitution to the U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission equal to the amount of salary he earned while working at Primary Global from 2008 to 2010, approximately $190,000.

He currently works at a computer solutions company in Mountain View, California, according to a filing from his lawyer.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Ken Wills)

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