- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 15, 2006

HOUSTON (AP) — Richard Causey, the last of the top Enron Corp. executives to learn his punishment, was sentenced yesterday to 5 years in prison for his role in one of the biggest corporate scandals in U.S. history.

Causey, the energy trading company’s former chief accounting officer, pleaded guilty in December to securities fraud two weeks before he was to be tried along with Enron founder Kenneth L. Lay and former Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Skilling on conspiracy, fraud and other charges.

“There were improper things done at Enron. Some of those things were done by me. For that, I’m sorry,” Causey said before U.S. District Judge Sim Lake sentenced him. “As God is my witness, I never did anything intentionally to enrich myself or hurt the company or its employees.”

After Causey, 46, serves his five years and six months in prison, he will have to serve two years’ probation and pay a $25,000 fine that will be distributed to Enron’s victims. Causey had already agreed to pay $1.25 million to the victims’ funds and forfeited a claim to about $250,000 in deferred compensation.

“I’m confident you will come out and be a credit to your family,” Judge Lake told Causey.

The maximum penalty for securities fraud is 10 years in prison and a fine of $1 million or twice the amount illegally gained.

Causey’s sentencing came less than a month after ex-CEO Skilling was sentenced to more than 24 years in prison. Andrew Fastow, Enron’s former chief financial officer, was sentenced to six years in September. Fastow had testified against Skilling and Mr. Lay, who were convicted in May of conspiracy and fraud. Mr. Lay’s convictions were voided after his July death from heart disease.

Prosecutor Kathryn Ruemmler said the government could recommend only a modest reduction in sentence for Causey, who did not testify in the Lay-Skilling trial, though he was on the defense witness list.

“Mr. Causey bore tremendous responsibility to Enron employees and investors,” she said. “And he abrogated that responsibility and that caused harm to thousands of employees and investors.”

Reid Weingarten, Causey’s defense attorney, argued his client’s guilty plea greatly simplified the government’s case against Mr. Lay and Skilling because it laid out complicated details about how the company kept its books.

Mr. Weingarten also told Judge Lake it would be unfair if Causey was sentenced to more time than Fastow, who just began serving six years in a federal prison in Louisiana.

“Who committed more crimes? Who was more responsible for the debacle of Enron?” Mr. Weingarten said.

After the court hearing, Mr. Weingarten told reporters his client was given a “harsh sentence.”

“The goddess of justice would have wept if Causey had gotten more” than Fastow, he said.

Causey’s wife and children cried after the sentence was announced. Causey will remain free on bond until he has to report to prison in four to six weeks.

At Mr. Weingarten’s request, Judge Lake said he would recommend to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons that Causey serve his time at the federal facility in Bastrop, about 30 miles southeast of Austin, Texas. The bureau will make the final decision on where Causey will go.

Prosecutors dropped their bid to seize Causey’s home, a $950,000 brick house in a Houston suburb.

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