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6 Indicted in AOL Accounting Case

Wakeford, who worked out of AOL's New York office and oversaw its day-to-day relationship with PurchasePro, and Tuli, who worked at AOL's headquarters in Dulles, are no longer with the company; AOL declined to discuss the nature of their departure. In June 2001, Wakeford was put on administrative leave, along with another executive, pending an internal investigation of AOL's relationship with PurchasePro. AOL did not disclose the suspensions.

Reached for comment, Henry W. Asbill, Wakeford's attorney, said, "He will vigorously contest those allegations, and we look forward to telling his side of the story to an objective audience." Mark J. Hulkower, Tuli's lawyer, said, "John Tuli committed no crimes and did nothing wrong. We welcome the opportunity to prove that in court."


U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty said the investigation of accounting at AOL is "a very active, ongoing investigation." (Jay Mallin -- Bloomberg News)

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Also indicted yesterday was Charles E. Johnson Jr., the flamboyant former PurchasePro chief executive and chairman who got his start in business by operating a gym and video stores. Johnson said prior to the indictment that he was innocent, laying the blame on what he described as rogue employees and his belief that the Justice Department had a political agenda to go after him.

"I didn't do anything wrong," he said.

Contacted yesterday, Yale L. Galanter, Johnson's attorney, said he had time to give the indictment only a brief look. "Junior is a corporate American hero," he said, because Johnson "put every dime" he had into PurchasePro and "walked away with nothing."

The other former PurchasePro officials indicted yesterday were Christopher J. Benyo, former senior vice president of marketing; Joseph Michael Kennedy, former senior vice president and chief technology officer; and Scott E. Wiegand, former senior vice president and general counsel.

"We are confident that Kennedy is not guilty of these charges, and we intend to prove that in an upcoming trial," said David Schertler, Kennedy's attorney.

Robert L. Ullmann, Wiegand's lawyer, said he would also fight the charges, saying Wiegand "fully expects to be vindicated. He was a whistle-blower, not a conspirator."

Benyo's attorney did not return calls seeking comment.

Before yesterday's indictment, six former executives of PurchasePro had already pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the investigation. Two have been sentenced to prison.

"Today's announcement by the U.S. attorney's office is not unexpected," said Time Warner spokeswoman Tricia Primrose Wallace. "Pursuing individual prosecutions was the next logical step in the process that the [Department of Justice] laid out after settling with Time Warner in mid-December."


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