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Ebbers Faces More Charges

May 25, 2004 | Wall Street Journal

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan expanded their case against Bernard J. Ebbers, the ex-chief executive of WorldCom Inc., by filing six more counts of making false filings in connection with the company's quarterly or annual reports.

The reports in question, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, are for six consecutive quarters the fourth quarter of 2000 through the first quarter of 2002.

Mr. Ebbers, 62 years old, had previously been charged with conspiracy, securities fraud and making false regulatory filings in connection with a record $11 billion accounting fraud at WorldCom, now called MCI Inc. (MCIA). He has denied wrongdoing.

Mr. Ebbers' attorney, Reid Weingarten, couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

If convicted of the most-serious counts of securities fraud or making false statements, Ebbers faces up to 10 years in prison.

The move by the government wasn't entirely unexpected. In March, the prosecutors indicated at Mr. Ebbers' arraignment that they might file additional charges against the bearded former CEO and might also charge others.

He is scheduled to appear Tuesday in Manhattan federal court for a previously scheduled pretrial conference. His trial is set for Nov. 9, and it is unclear if the new charges would affect that date.

In some cases, prosecutors expand the charges as a way to pressure a defendant into entering a plea agreement.

Scott Sullivan, WorldCom's former chief financial officer, pleaded guilty to similar charges in March and has agreed to cooperate with the government in its prosecution of Mr. Ebbers.

Prosecutors secured a guilty plea from Mr. Sullivan about a year after broadening their case against the ex-CFO in April 2003. He was originally indicted in August 2002.

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