Federal prosecutors in New York have asked a judge to sentence former WorldCom Inc. chief executive Bernard J. Ebbers to spend the rest of his life in prison for leading the largest accounting fraud in U.S. history.
In a court filing unsealed yesterday, the government urged U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones to reject any plea for leniency, arguing that Ebbers’s sentence should match the extent of the fraud at the telecommunications company. Ebbers was found guilty March 15 on nine counts of conspiracy, securities fraud and false regulatory filings for his role in orchestrating $11 billion in improper accounting entries.
“One person established the culture that allowed this fraud to occur and, more fundamentally, specifically directed WorldCom employees to commit fraud rather than reveal WorldCom’s true financial condition to the public: Bernard Ebbers,” the government said.
A probation office report to Jones on May 11 determined that sentencing guidelines allow her to impose a life sentence, based on Ebbers’s role, the size of the fraud and the number of victims. Earlier this month, lawyers for Ebbers urged against using the guidelines, saying his heart condition, his charitable works and other factors argued for leniency. Ebbers’s lawyers also said Jones could depart from the guidelines, citing a Supreme Court ruling this year that allowed judges to sidestep the federal sentencing rules.