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Sat, Sep 09, 2006 - Page 10 News List

WorldCom top dog ordered to begin fraud jail sentence

AP , NEW YORK

Former WorldCom Corp chief Bernard Ebbers was ordered to report to prison on Sept. 26 to begin serving a 25-year sentence for an US$11 billion accounting fraud.

US District Judge Barbara Jones, in a ruling made public on Thursday, ordered Ebbers to surrender to an institution designated by the US Bureau of Prisons to begin serving a sentence that was delayed for the last year while an appeals court considered it.

Ebbers was sentenced in July of last year after he was convicted of fraud and conspiracy in the massive fraud that drove WorldCom into bankruptcy in 2002.

The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals last month upheld his conviction and sentence, finding he was motivated primarily by personal financial circumstances.

Ebbers once was known as one of the US' most successful chief executive officers as his telecommunications company and its stock soared during the technology driven excesses of the late 1990s.

At trial, prosecutors successfully argued that Ebbers helped lead a plan to prop up the company's stock price by hiding its failing finances. The scheme was described as one of the largest accounting frauds in history.

WorldCom collapsed into bankruptcy in 2002, and investigators eventually uncovered US$11 billion in fraud, much of it because accountants were classifying regular expenses as long-term capital expenditures. The company re-emerged under the name MCI. Verizon later bought MCI.

Ebbers at sentencing could have faced as much as 85 years in prison on nine criminal counts including securities fraud, conspiracy and making false filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

He was convicted more than two years after an internal auditor began asking questions about curious accounting at WorldCom, touching off a scandal that eventually unearthed US$11 billion in cooked books.

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