A U.S. judge on Thursday approved a plea agreement for former Enron Corp. assistant treasurer Lea Fastow, possibly paving the way for federal prosecutors to reach a deal with her husband, former Enron financial mastermind Andrew Fastow.

Mike DeGeurin, Lea Fastow’s attorney, said he and his client had not decided whether to accept the plea agreement as modified by the judge, which would send her to prison for five months. They were to meet at 2 p.m. CST (3 p.m. EST) on Thursday to discuss the plea agreement.

At issue is the judge’s demand for a two-month pre-sentencing investigation before Lea Fastow can begin her sentence for tax evasion. That demand was the main hurdle throughout the discussions about the agreement.

The Fastows, with two small children, would like to have at least one parent raise their children should they both have to go to prison.

“If Andy, her husband, has to go to jail, we don’t want the children to be without parents,” DeGeurin told reporters outside the courthouse.

The Fastows are considered key players in the two-year-old government probe of the bankrupt energy trading company because of their familiarity with the complex financial transactions that ultimately led to the company’s downfall.

The proposed deal would lead to “a global resolution of two cases that are important to government,” Leslie Caldwell, head of the Justice Department’s Enron task force, told the court earlier on Thursday.

“The defendant can plead as early as this afternoon,” said U.S. District Court Judge David Hittner, who added he reserved the right to alter the proposed prison term.

The agreement is also linked to possible charges against former Chief Accounting Officer Richard Causey, sources close to the case said.

Andrew Fastow has been negotiating a plea bargain to cooperate with authorities, pay more than $20 million to settle civil charges and go to prison for as long as 10 years, the sources said.

His cooperation was expected to lead to charges against Causey in connection with the financial chicanery behind Enron’s 2001 collapse, the sources said. Continued … 1| 2 Next

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