Federal prosecutors are expected to announce an indictment of former Enron Corp. chief executive Jeffrey K. Skilling today, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

Skilling, 50, has been a central focus of a two-year-old investigation into alleged widespread earnings manipulation at the Houston energy firm. As Enron’s chief operating officer and later its top executive, he worked closely with subordinates to develop accounting policies and set profit targets.

Called to testify before Congress in early 2002, a few months after Enron’s collapse into bankruptcy, Skilling said the company was on solid financial ground when he resigned that August. That sworn testimony drew intense scrutiny from the Justice Department’s Enron Task Force and regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The charges are likely to mirror a separate criminal case the government filed against former Enron chief accounting officer Richard A. Causey last month. Prosecutors accuse Causey of taking part in a conspiracy to prop up Enron’s stock price by hiding debt, overvaluing assets, and misusing cash reserve accounts. They also are seeking forfeiture of allegedly ill-gotten gains from Enron stock sales. Causey pleaded not guilty to the charges and his lawyers said he will vigorously fight them in court.

Skilling’s lawyer, Bruce M. Hiler, did not return calls yesterday. Last week he said his client acted on advice from dozens of lawyers, accountants, and subordinates, who approved Enron’s complex business deals and accounting maneuvers.

“If a COO can be indicted on transactions that dozens of experts reviewed and recommended to the company’s board, then no COO should go to work tomorrow,” Hiler said in a written statement.

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