Ebbers Gets 25-Year Sentence

By The Associated Press

STRICT SENTENCE: Former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers was sentenced to

25 years in prison -- the toughest term yet in the recent wave of white-collar scandals.

REPORTING DATE: The judge ordered Ebbers, 63, to report to a federal prison -- possibly one in Yazoo City, Miss., near his home -- by Oct. 12. The judge said she'd consider allowing him to remain free while he appeals.

PLEA FOR LENIENCY: Ebbers' lawyer had argued for a lighter sentence, citing a lost history of anonymous charitable donations by Ebbers and friends who wrote letters on his behalf.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: The British Broadcasting Company also had this same news on their wire this morning. PAT]

Worldcom's ex-boss gets 25 years Prosecutors had called for Mr Ebbers to be given a life sentence.

Former Worldcom boss Bernard Ebbers wept openly as he was sentenced to

25 years in jail for his part in the scandal which brought down the firm. Mr Ebbers was found guilty of fraud and conspiracy in March, following revelations of an $11bn accounting fraud at Worldcom in 2002.

The 63-year-old was also guilty of seven counts of filing false documents.

The sentence was handed down by federal judge Barbara Jones, who earlier this week rejected his bid for a new trial.

The sentence was the toughest yet in a string of corporate scandals in the US.

Mr Ebbers did not address the court. Instead, he wiped his eyes with a white tissue. Meanwhile, Kristie Ebbers, his wife, cried quietly.

The jail term effectively satisfies pleas from prosecutors for a life sentence to be imposed on Mr Ebbers.

Mr Ebbers will begin serving his sentence at a federal prison in Yazoo City, Mississippi, situated close to his home.

'Leader' in crime

Defense lawyer Reid Weingarten had called for a more lenient sentence, given Mr Ebbers' heart condition and his involvement in charitable works.

However, Judge Barbara Jones said she did not believe his heart condition was sufficiently serious to warrant a reduced sentence.

A sentence of anything less would not reflect the seriousness of the crime.

Barbara Jones, Federal Judge also rejected his lawyers' contention that the government overstated the losses that investors suffered in the fraud.

And she rejected their contention that Mr Ebbers was not a mastermind of the accounting wrongdoing.

Mr Ebbers "was clearly a leader of criminal activity in this case," the judge said.

"A sentence of anything less would not reflect the seriousness of the crime."

Biggest bankruptcy

Worldcom's collapse was the biggest bankruptcy in US corporate history.

Some 20,000 workers lost their jobs, while shareholders lost about $180bn, when the company filed for bankruptcy protection.

A former Worldcom salesman, Henry J Bruin Jr, told the hearing in Manhattan that the company's collapse had caused him "untold human carnage" and that he had suffered "sheer hell".

Mr Ebbers is the first of six former Worldcom executives and accountants facing sentencing this summer.

The remaining five have already pleaded guilty and agreed to co-operate in the case against their former boss.

On Monday, a judge backed a multi-million dollar settlement under which Mr Ebbers must surrender most of his personal assets, including $5m in cash, to resolve a shareholder lawsuit.

The settlement provides for Mr. Ebbers' wife with about $50,000 of her husband's fortune, and a modest home in Jackson, Mississippi.

Worldcom emerged from bankruptcy last year and is now known as MCI.

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