The government's case against former WorldCom Inc. chief executive Bernard J. Ebbers grew on Monday when a new 31-page indictment was handed up by a Manhattan grand jury with seven new changes of false Securities and Exchange Commission filings, the Washington Post reported.
The seven new changes are added to the charges Ebbers, 62, already faces, including one count each of conspiracy, securities fraud and false filing in the role he allegedly played in the nation's largest accounting scandal. The new charges could increase his sentence if he is found guilty on all charges, the Post reported, adding the securities fraud and false filing counts each carry a maximum of 10 years in jail and the conspiracy charge carries a maximum of five years in prison.
"Whenever you add counts, you're squeezing the defendant," Kirby D. Behre, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice, told the Post. "Often the reason you do this is to show the breadth and depth of the government's case to the defendant."
Ebbers is due back in court Tuesday for a pretrial conference and his trial is scheduled for Nov. 9. The Post reported his attorney, Reid Weingarten, did not immediately respond to requests for comment but has said in the past that his client is not guilty.
WorldCom spiraled into bankruptcy in 2002 after admitting to doctoring its bottom line by billions of dollars. The company, now known as MCI, has acknowledged that it improperly accounted for more than $11 billion.
Former Chief Financial Officer Scott D. Sullivan and four other top WorldCom executives have pleaded guilty to criminal charges and Sullivan, who entered his plea March 2, is cooperating with federal authorities, the Post reported. He has admitted to tampering with the company's accounting to reduce expenses and improve the bottom line.