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Ebbers weeps as sentence handed down

25 years for $11bn WorldCom fraud

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Bernie Ebbers wept in court as he was told he faced 25 years in chokey for orchestrating the world's biggest securities fraud at WorldCom.

The man behind the $11bn (£5.8bn) con that helped make WorldCom "become synonymous with fraud" was visibly shaken when the sentence was handed down yesterday, according to those in court.

For Ebbers, 63, the jail term means he could spend the rest of his life behind bars, reports the BBC.

He is due to start his prison sentence on October 12 at a federal jail in Yazoo City, Mississippi, which is near his home.

Handing down the sentence Judge Barbara Jones told the court: "A sentence of anything less would not reflect the seriousness of the crime."

In March, Bernard J Ebbers, the former chief exec of WorldCom (now renamed MCI), was found guilty of orchestrating the $11bn (£5.8bn) accounting fraud that led to the collapse of the US telecoms giant, the loss of 20,000 jobs and wiped out more than $100bn in stock value.

Not bad for a man who made much of his humble roots as an ex-milkman and basketball coach whose grasp of accounting and technology were limited.

Throughout the six week trial the former chief exec maintained he knew nothing of the book fiddling that brought the telecoms giant to its knees. Instead, he told the court he left all the financial matters to his bean counters.

The jury didn't agree. Following eight days of deliberation, the Manhattan federal jury returned guilty verdicts on charges of conspiracy, securities fraud, and seven counts of filing false reports.

Speaking yesterday Judge Jones said that Ebbers "was clearly a leader of criminal activity in this case". ®

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