Saturday, March 04, 2006


How to lead a profitable life of crime

Our criminal justice system really is a marvel. Former Qwest executive vice president Marc Weisberg in a plea bargain agreed to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud in exchange for a sentence of 2 year's probation, a $250,100 fine and cooperation in the prosecution of former Qwest chief executive officer Joseph Nacchio, who is accused of a separate 100-million dollar peccadillo.

The original charge was that Mr. Weisberg fraudulently earned $2.9 million "for himself, family members and friends between 1999 and 2001."

Lessons learned

According to Greg Griffin of the Denver Post, here's what Mr. Weisberg avoided—

10 counts of wire fraud and money laundering that carried potential maximum prison sentences of five to 20 years. Prosecutors also dropped a forfeiture count seeking repayment of $2.9 million in allegedly ill-gotten gains.

John Sarche of the AP was there for the sentencing—

In a brief statement before the sentence was handed down, Weisberg thanked his family for their support and said the court case taught him about fairness, loyalty and love.

"The last few years have been a learning experience. Though the tuition has been steep, the lessons have been quite valuable," he said.

Valuable indeed! If the U.S. attorneys didn't just pull the $2.9 million figure from thin air (always a possibility), Mr. Weisberg netted $2,649,900 minus attorneys' fees for his efforts. That wouldn't be bad money in my part of the woods.

But Mr. Weisberg now has a felony on his record, which I'm sure he cares about a great deal more than the money. He may be feeling a little bitter, though, about the selective prosecution.

U.S. Attorney Bill Leone said Friday he was pleased with the outcome of the case because it clearly defines Weisberg's conduct as criminal.

"Although many executives at Qwest participated in vendor-stock deals, we felt Weisberg's conduct went farther and we feel his more-severe penalty reflects that," Leone said.

"I think this rachets up deterrence for executives at public companies, that they shouldn't be doing this," he said. "We've advanced the ball with that kind of prosecution."

Yes. That should really put a stop to executive crime.

Still, Mr. Weisberg is lucky he didn't hold up a convenience store. He could be looking at some serious time!

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