Ebbers signs agreement with Oklahoma AG

Thursday, March 31st 2005, 1:55 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Former WorldCom chief Bernie Ebbers, who is awaiting federal sentencing in New York, has signed an agreement that will delay state action on charges linked to the $11 billion accounting scandal that brought down the telecommunications giant.

The agreement was announced Wednesday by Attorney General Drew Edmondson, who postponed prosecuting Ebbers on fraud charges until after he was tried in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Ebbers was convicted March 15 of nine federal charges, including securities fraud and filing false documents. He faces a maximum sentence of 85 years on those convictions at a sentencing set for June 13.

``Our agreement stops the statute of limitations in the Oklahoma investigation from running until 30 days after that sentencing,'' Edmondson said.

He said his office will monitor the federal sentencing to determine what to do next in the case.

``If Ebbers' federal sentence is sufficient, we have several choices including dropping the case all together or offering Ebbers concurrent time in exchange for a guilty plea,'' the Oklahoma official said.

Edmondson charged Ebbers, WorldCom and five other executives in August 2003 with 15 counts of violating the Oklahoma Securities Act. He delayed the Oklahoma case against the six executives at the request of U.S. Atty. David Kelley, whose office charged Ebbers in March 2004.

MCI, the successor to WorldCom, reached a settlement with the state disposing of the charges against the company.

Edmondson said MCI has paid the state $280,000 for jobs it failed to create under a deferred prosecution agreement signed in 2004.

That agreement required MCI to create 160 new jobs in Oklahoma every year for the next 10 years or pay the state for jobs it does not produce.

``I'm disappointed MCI failed to create the required jobs,'' Edmondson said. ``The company informed us it may not reach its job goal. MCI now will be required to create 320 jobs to meet its 2005 obligation, 160 jobs for 2005 plus the 160 it failed to create in 2004.''

Kathy Taylor, Gov. Brad Henry's secretary of commerce, said the money paid to the state by MCI this year will go to support existing businesses who are expanding and to recruit ``additional high quality companies to Oklahoma.''