- The Washington Times - Monday, May 24, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — The government brought new charges yesterday against WorldCom’s former chief executive officer, Bernard Ebbers, accusing him of falsifying six regulatory filings in the months before the company’s spectacular collapse two years ago.

Mr. Ebbers was already facing fraud and conspiracy charges filed in March by federal prosecutors who say he presided over WorldCom’s $11 billion accounting fraud, leading to the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

The new indictment, handed up by a Manhattan grand jury, says Mr. Ebbers submitted six false forms to the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2001 and 2002.

The SEC requires public companies to submit the forms to report on their financial condition.

Prosecutors already had accused Mr. Ebbers of filing a similar false SEC form in November 2000. The new charges take the falsification up to May 2002 — just two months before WorldCom went bankrupt.

Mr. Ebbers has pleaded not guilty to the original three charges — securities fraud, conspiracy and the false-document count. He is free on $10 million bail.

His attorney, Reid Weingarten, did not immediately return a call about the new charges.

In March, Mr. Weingarten said Mr. Ebbers “never sought to mislead investors, never sought to improperly manipulate WorldCom’s numbers, never improperly took any money and never sought to hurt the company he built.”

WorldCom has become among the handful of signature cases in the government’s crackdown on white-collar crime that began with the fall of Enron in December 2001.

The case escalated in March, when former WorldCom Chief Financial Officer Scott Sullivan agreed to plead guilty to fraud charges and testify against Mr. Ebbers, his former boss at the telecommunications giant.

Mr. Ebbers’ trial was scheduled for Nov. 9, but prosecutors hinted in March that it might be delayed because of additional charges against the former CEO.

The three original charges carried up to 30 years in prison. The additional six add 60 years to the potential sentence, although any term would be drastically reduced under federal sentencing guidelines.

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