Bernard J. Ebbers, the former chairman of WorldCom, was sentenced yesterday to 25 years in prison for orchestrating a record $11 billion fraud that toppled the telecommunications company he founded.
Judge Barbara S. Jones of Federal District Court in Manhattan handed down the sentence in a packed courtroom that included former WorldCom employees and Bernard Ebbers was sentenced today to 25 years in prison.
She said the penalty – the stiffest in a corporate fraud case in recent memory – was appropriate given the size and scope of the damages.
“Mr. Ebbers was the instigator in this fraud,” she said during the 90-minute proceeding, rebutting arguments that Mr. Ebbers was duped by his subordinates. “Mr. Ebbers’s statements deprived investors of their money. They might have made different decisions had they known the truth.”
Mr. Ebbers, in a dark suit and a crew cut, appeared tense when he arrived at the court, shoving a photographer who stood in his path. But during the proceedings – accompanied by the rumbling of thunder from dark rain clouds – he slumped forward in his seat with his elbows on the table and his head in his hands. Occasionally, he dabbed his eyes and sniffled. As the courtroom cleared, he stood and hugged his wife, Kristie.