Former WorldCom finance chief Scott Sullivan was sentenced to five years in prison for playing an importatn role in the largest financial fraud in U.S. history.
Sullivan became the fifth WorldCom executive to be sentenced to prison in the $11 billion (Ђ8.9 billion) scandal. His sentence is topped only by that of ex-CEO Bernard Ebbers, who got 25 years.
Sullivan, 43, was the star witness at Ebbers' trial earlier this year, testifying the CEO repeatedly instructed him to "hit the numbers" - or adjust WorldCom's books to meet Wall Street expectations.
Sullivan told the court he was "ashamed and embarrassed."
"I made horrible decisions," he said. "It was a misguided effort to save the company. ... I ask for leniency so I can get back to my family as soon as possible."
"Mr. Sullivan was the architect of the fraud at WorldCom," said U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones, who ordered him to report to prison Nov. 11.
For most of the investigation of WorldCom's collapse, Sullivan was the highest-ranking executive charged. But just before his trial began in 2004, Sullivan pleaded guilty to fraud and agreed to testify against Ebbers.
The Ebbers trial amounted to a question of whom jurors believed. The defense always claimed that Sullivan was the mastermind of the fraud, and kept his boss in the dark.
Sullivan, in more than 30 hours of testimony, said he repeatedly expressed his reservations to Ebbers about cooking the books but was overruled by his boss.
"I told Bernie, 'This isn't right,"' Sullivan said, describing an October 2000 meeting in which he said he showed Ebbers a plan to improperly create $133 million (Ђ107 million) in revenue. "He just stared at it, and he looked up at me and he said, 'We have to hit our numbers."'
Sullivan has already agreed to sell the $11 million (Ђ8.9 million) mansion he is building with his wife in Boca Raton, Florida, to settle a lawsuit brought by former WorldCom shareholders.
The house is a lavish, 30,000-square-foot (2,700-square-meter), Mediterranean-style mansion with 10 bedrooms, nine bathrooms and seven fireplaces made of carved stone and mahogany.
Former WorldCom controller David Myers, a key cooperator in the government's case, and former accounting director Buford Yates each were sentenced to a year and a day in prison.
Accounting manager Betty Vinson will serve five months in prison and five months of house arrest. Another accountant, Troy Normand, got three years of probation.
WorldCom collapsed in 2002 when the fraud came to light, the AP reports.