- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2006

HOUSTON (AP) — Former President George Bush and his wife, Barbara, were among the mourners yesterday at the funeral of Enron Corp. founder Kenneth L. Lay.

Lay’s funeral drew some of the high-profile guests who were close to him before he was convicted in May of fraud and conspiracy for lying to investors and the public about the energy company’s financial health before it collapsed in 2001.

Among the other mourners at the downtown Houston church Lay attended for 12 years were former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane Jr., heart surgeon Denton Cooley and Lay’s criminal lawyer, Mike Ramsey.

His co-defendant, former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling, did not attend the service yesterday. Skilling did attend a private service Sunday in Aspen, Colo., where Lay died July 5, with about 200 friends and family members.

Skilling’s wife, former Enron corporate secretary Rebecca Carter, did attend yesterday’s memorial service. Skilling, 52, had planned to attend yesterday’s service in Houston as well, said his attorney, Daniel Petrocelli. It was not immediately clear why he did not attend.

Former Houston Mayor Bob Lanier, 81, collapsed at the funeral shortly after arriving and was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he was in stable condition later in the day.

“He was very, very ill,” said Pastor Steve Wende, officiating at Lay’s funeral, held a few blocks from the glittering towers that once were the Enron buildings.

Lay and Skilling were convicted in May of perpetuating fraud by repeatedly lying to investors and employees about the company’s financial health before Enron plunged into bankruptcy proceedings in December 2001.

The two men were the public faces of Enron throughout its days as a premier trading company that enjoyed Wall Street’s adoration and grew into the nation’s seventh-largest company. They also fell hard, vilified as masterminds of a massive fraud that fueled a flameout that left thousands jobless and wiped out billions from investors.

They insisted at their trial that they committed no crimes and no fraud occurred at Enron except for a few executives who skimmed money behind their backs.

A jury convicted Lay of six counts of fraud and conspiracy and Skilling of 19 of 28 counts of fraud, conspiracy, insider trading and lying to auditors. Lay also was convicted of bank fraud and lying to banks in a separate, nonjury trial related to his personal banking.

Before Enron crashed, Lay was a highly respected business leader and philanthropist in the nation’s fourth-largest city with a powerful circle of friends that included Mr. Bush as well as his son, the current president.

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