A former top Enron energy trader will plead guilty in federal court here Thursday to a charge he manipulated California’s energy market to drive up power prices, officials said Wednesday.
Law enforcement sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Timothy Belden, the former head of trading in Enron’s Portland, Ore., office, will plead guilty to one charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Neither Belden nor his attorney, Paul Meltzer of Santa Cruz, could be reached for comment. Belden has an unlisted telephone number. An employee at Meltzer’s law office said he was out of town and could not be reached until Monday.
In July, The Oregonian newspaper of Portland, Ore., reported that Belden might be trying to reach an agreement with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony. At that time, Meltzer said his client would not seek immunity before talking to federal or state officials.
Federal investigators have interviewed a California Senate panel investigating the state’s energy crisis about evidence uncovered in its long-running investigation of market manipulation. A federal grand jury in San Francisco has been weighing criminal charges related to the energy crisis, according to reports.
The Senate panel has long believed Belden to be the mastermind behind price manipulation as outlined in internal company memos. Those memos describe how Enron bought California power at cheap, capped prices, routed it outside the state, and then sold it back into California at vastly inflated prices.
At the time, the state’s power consumers were coping with rolling blackouts and shortages. Belden has moved to Houston, and now works for UBS Warburg, which bought Enron’s power trading operations early this year.
Unrelated to California’s power woes, Enron filed for bankruptcy in December following revelations that it used questionable accounting methods to mask billions of dollars in debt and inflate profits.