NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Bernard J Ebbers, who was imprisoned in 2006 after his conviction in one of the biggest American frauds of the 20th century, will soon be free after serving a little more than half of a 25-year sentence.
Ebbers, also known as Bernie, was sent to federal prison after carrying out an US$11 billion (S$14.9 billion) accounting fraud as chief executive of the telephone company WorldCom. He was granted a compassionate release by a federal judge in New York, Valerie Caproni, a spokesman for the US attorney's office in Manhattan said on Wednesday (Dec 18). The spokesman did not know when Ebbers would be freed.
"We are grateful for the ruling and hope Bernie gets some peaceful and loving time with his friends and family," one of his lawyers, Reid H Weingarten, said in an email.
Ebbers, now 78, steered WorldCom through a series of acquisitions that took it from a small telephone company in Mississippi to a juggernaut competing with AT&T and other national long-distance carriers. But the company's apparent success, which drove its stock price to Olympian heights and contributed to a bubble in telecommunications stocks, was a fantasy.
Former WorldCom employees said Ebbers told them to rearrange the company's expenses to make it look like WorldCom was making far more money than it really was.
WorldCom eventually went bankrupt, wiping out billions of dollars in value from the stock market and calling into question the system Wall Street analysts and investment bankers used to evaluate public companies and try to raise money for them. A jury convicted Ebbers of securities fraud, conspiracy and filing false reports in 2005. His prison sentence, which he began serving in 2006, was among the stiffest handed out to a corporate executive.
Ebbers started out in federal prison in Louisiana but was later transferred to Texas. Over time, his health began to fail, his lawyers said in court filings.
Earlier this year, Ebbers' lawyers began asking for a reduction in his sentence, citing his frailty. In a court filing in late October, his daughter Joy Ebbers Bourne said her father was "experiencing full-blown dementia."
"In my recent phone calls and visits, he is unable to carry on a conversation," she wrote.