Former Rite Aid vice chairman sentenced to 10 years in prison in accounting scandal

Thursday, October 14th 2004, 2:20 pm
By: News On 6

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) _ Former Rite Aid Corp. vice chairman Franklin C. Brown was sentenced to 10 years in prison Thursday for playing a leading role in an accounting scandal at the nation's third-largest drug store chain.

Brown was the last of six company officials sentenced to prison in a scheme to artificially inflate the company's value during a period in the 1990s when Rite Aid was expanding rapidly and its stock price skyrocketed.

Brown, a lawyer who wrote Rite Aid's first store lease four decades ago, apologized for the scandal and asked the judge to ``to grant me whatever mercy and leniency you can.'' Defense attorneys said a sentence of 10 years amounted to ``a de facto death sentence'' for the 76-year-old Brown, who had a pacemaker installed last week.

``Being accused and convicted of a crime has been the most painful and humbling experience of my life,'' Brown told the judge.

Judge Sylvia H. Rambo said she would recommend that Brown be placed in a federal medical facility, and she also sentenced him to two years on probation after his release.

``As usual, no one will be happy with this,'' Rambo said.

Brown was the only Rite Aid official to take the case to trial. Five others pleaded guilty and cooperated with prosecutors, and some testified against Brown at his trial.

A jury found him guilty in October 2003 of 10 criminal counts _ conspiracy, obstruction, lying to federal regulators and witness tampering.

Prosecutor Kim Douglas Daniel called him ``the hub of the conspiratorial wheel.'' Some of the most damning evidence against Brown concerned highly lucrative backdated severance letters issued to him and other senior company officials. He also was accused of lying to internal investigators and federal regulators.