Former Enron financial officer Fastow sentenced to 6 years in prison

Tuesday, September 26th 2006, 1:23 pm
By: News On 6

HOUSTON (AP) _ Andrew Fastow, the mastermind behind financial schemes that doomed Enron Corp., was sentenced Tuesday to six years in prison for his role in the energy company's stunning collapse by a judge who felt he deserved leniency.

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

But the judge said he deserved a lighter sentence because Fastow has been persecuted after Enron's failure and that 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, then Fastow was 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.''

Fastow said he was ashamed for what he had done and had tried to make up for it by helping prosecutors and attorneys for investors and employees who had lost money. Three attorneys for people who lost money and one Enron investor spoke at the sentencing.

``To all of the victims, I apologize to you,'' he said, turning toward the four who spoke. ``I am ashamed of what I did.''

Fastow's attorneys, David Gerger and John Keker, had asked for a lighter sentence, citing Fastow's admission of guilt and his help in the federal government's successful prosecution of Enron founder Kenneth Lay and the former chief executive, Jeffrey Skilling.

Enron, once the nation's seventh-largest company, crumbled into bankruptcy proceedings in December 2001 after years of accounting tricks could no longer hide billions in debt or make failing ventures appear profitable. The collapse wiped out thousands of jobs, more than $60 billion in market value and more than $2 billion in pension plans.

Fastow was originally indicted on 98 counts, including fraud, insider trading and money laundering. He pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy, admitting to running various schemes to hide Enron debt and inflate profits while enriching himself. He also surrendered nearly $30 million in cash and property.

At their trial, Fastow testified Lay and Skilling were aware of fraudulent financial structures engineered by Fastow and his staff.

Skilling and Lay were convicted in May of conspiracy and fraud. Lay's attorneys are working to erase his convictions since his July 5 death from heart disease. Skilling is to be sentenced next month.

Fastow's wife, Lea, pleaded guilty in 2004 to a misdemeanor tax crime and served a year in prison for helping him hide ill-gotten gains from his schemes. Her time behind bars was one of the reasons the judge was more lenient.

Before the sentencing, Rod Jordan, chairman of the Severed Enron Employee Coalition, said some former Enron workers believe Fastow should be forgiven because unlike Skilling, he admitted his guilt and ``is taking his medicine.''