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Ex-WorldCom Director Pleads Guilty

Oct 10, 2002 | AP

Another WorldCom executive pleaded guilty Thursday to charges stemming from a federal probe of the company's multibillion-dollar accounting scandal.

Betty Vinson, the former director of management reporting, entered her plea to charges of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and securities fraud in U.S. District Court in Manhattan before Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck.

Later in the day, another plea was expected from Troy Normand, the director of legal entity accounting. Both Normand and Vinson were top executives in the General Accounting Department, and oversaw the company's financial record-keeping.

Prosecutors had filed court papers in August indicating the pair would plead guilty as part of cooperation agreements.

During her plea, Vinson, 47, told the judge she was ordered in October 2000 to misstate $800 million on WorldCom's ledgers.

"I was very concerned about the order to make the adjustment," Vinson told the judge.

Over the next year and a half, she carried out similar orders to transfer huge sums in expenses in a scheme to hide WorldCom's financial woes from the investing public, she said.

Outside court, her lawyer Joseph Hollomon said Vinson had protested the changes, but was overruled.

"She complained to (ex-Controller) David Myers who, it's my understanding, carried those complaints to (CFO Scott) Sullivan and others," said Hollomon.

Hollomon said his client rarely had contact with former CEO Bernard Ebbers, but wouldn't say if she could provide evidence against him.

Vinson faces up to 10 years in prison on the most serious charge, securities fraud, but may get substantially less for providing testimony in the case.

Vinson's admissions come three days after her immediate boss, Buford Yates, admitted guilt to his role in the scheme as part of a deal to cooperate with prosecutors.

Yates' direct supervisor, Myers, has also pleaded guilty.

In their pleas in Manhattan federal court, both Myers and Yates said the orders to falsify WorldCom's ledgers came from the top levels of corporate management.

All four defendants are expected to provide evidence against Scott, the former chief financial officer, who has been indicted but has maintained his innocence in the case.

Prosecutors are also collecting evidence to determine what Ebbers knew about the large-scale fraud.

An indictment filed by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office estimates the scheme helped hide roughly $3.8 billion in expenses and overstate earnings by $5 billion.

WorldCom officials have said the total amount of revenue misstatements is around $7 billion, and some reports have put the figure at $9 billion.

Prosecutors say Vinson and Normand carried out orders from Sullivan and Myers to disguise the $3.8 billion in operating expenses as capital expenses.

"As Sullivan, Myers, Yates, Vinson and Normand well knew, there was no justification in fact or under generally accepted accounting principles for these entries," according to the indictment.

Sullivan, who is free on $10 million bond, is under increasing pressure to cooperate after the actions taken by Yates, Myers and Vinson.

Sullivan's lawyer, Irv Nathan, has said his client is a victim of a "rush to judgment."

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