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Ebbers granted early release from prison

BERNIE EBBERS

A federal judge has authorized the release of former WorldCom Inc. Chief Executive Bernie Ebbers from prison after more than 13 years because of his deteriorating health, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Judge Valerie Caproni on Wednesday granted one of his daughter’s request for a compassionate release from a federal prison medical facility in Fort Worth, Texas. Court papers say a Bureau of Prisons official denied that request in August.

Ebbers, 78, is serving a 25-year prison term for participating in one of the largest accounting frauds in history.

The early-release request stated that the former telecom boss is suffering from blindness and mental and physical decline, including a heart ailment. His weight recently plummeted from about 200 pounds to less than 150.

Ebbers led WorldCom, once one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies. The Clinton-based WorldCom collapsed and went into bankruptcy in 2002, causing losses to stockholders, including people who had invested through retirement plans.

The collapse happened after revelations of $11 billion in accounting fraud that included pressure by top executives on lower-level employees to use inflated numbers to make the company look more profitable.

Ebbers was convicted in New York in 2005 on securities fraud and other charges and received a 25-year sentence. He has been imprisoned since September 2006.

A  Monday deadline has been set  for federal officials to provide an update about Ebbers’ health.

WorldCom emerged from bankruptcy in 2004 and rebranded itself as MCI, the name of a telecommunications company WorldCom had purchased years earlier. The two companies had merged in 1997. During bankruptcy, the company moved its headquarters from Clinton to Ashburn, Va. In 2006, Verizon Communications bought MCI.

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About Jack Weatherly