- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 26, 2006

From combined dispatches

Former WorldCom Inc. Chief Executive Officer Bernard Ebbers, convicted of overseeing one of the biggest frauds in U.S. history, reported to a federal prison in Louisiana yesterday to begin serving a 25-year term.

Ebbers, 65, reported to the low-security Federal Correctional Institution in Oakdale, La., U.S. Bureau of Prisons officials said.

The 1,400-inmate prison for men is 230 miles from Ebbers’ home in Jackson, Miss.

Meanwhile, Andrew Fastow, convicted mastermind of the financial schemes that doomed Enron Corp., was sentenced to six years in prison yesterday by a judge who said he deserved leniency.

Fastow, the former chief financial officer who cooperated with prosecutors in other cases related to the energy company’s 2001 implosion, had agreed to serve a maximum 10-year term when he pleaded guilty in 2004.

But the judge said Fastow deserved a lighter sentence because he has been persecuted after Enron’s failure and his family has suffered enough.

“Prosecution is necessary, but persecution was not,” said U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt. “These factors call for mercy.”

Fastow was taken immediately into custody after the judge rejected his request to turn himself in later. The judge did allow him to hug his wife, Lea, before being taken away in handcuffs.

“I know I deserve punishment,” said Fastow, who cried before the sentencing while telling the court he was sorry for what he had done. “I accept it without bitterness.”

Ebbers can expect, with good behavior, to serve 85 percent of his sentence, 21 years and three months.

Ebbers, whose top one-year compensation at WorldCom was $18 million, will have a job such as food server or janitor for a starting pay of 12 cents an hour, bureau spokeswoman Felicia Ponce said.

“Every inmate that is medically able to work has to have a job,” she said. “Every inmate is treated exactly the same. There’s no distinction.”

Ebbers built a small telephone company into the second-largest U.S. long-distance provider, then was accused of directing an $11 billion fraud that drove WorldCom into bankruptcy.

He was convicted last year of conspiracy, securities fraud and seven counts of making false filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The former executive, sentenced 14 months ago, has been free on bail pending the outcome of an appeal.

An appeals court in New York upheld his conviction in July, and U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones in New York ordered him to report to prison yesterday.

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