Last of 15 Enron Defendants Sentenced

By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The former chief of Enron's Internet business unit was sentenced to 27 months in prison yesterday, closing what could be the final chapter in the Houston energy trader's downfall.

Kenneth D. Rice, 48, is the 15th and final Enron official to face punishment for his role in the company's bankruptcy more than five years ago. Under federal guidelines, he must serve nearly two years, or 85 percent, of the sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore yesterday in a Houston courtroom.

"What got me here is, I lied over about a two-year period, on a number of occasions, to the investing community," Rice said yesterday, according to Bloomberg News. "I wasn't raised that way, and I'm ashamed of that."

Rice told the jury in last year's criminal trial of Enron's two top executives that he and others misrepresented the financial health of Enron Broadband Services, a highly touted division that posted billions of dollars in losses. His testimony helped prosecutors win the conviction of former chief executive Jeffrey K. Skilling, who is serving a prison term of 24 1/3 years. Company founder Kenneth L. Lay died in July 2006 before he could be sentenced.

Rice faced as much as a decade in prison and agreed to forfeit cash, sports cars and jewelry worth $14.7 million under the terms of his 2004 plea agreement. Between February 2000 and June 2001, Rice sold $53 million worth of Enron stock, some at a time when he later said he had access to secret information about its high debt burdens.

Once among Skilling's closest confidants and companions on off-road adventure tours, Rice ultimately turned against him. Rice was known within Enron's gleaming office towers as a risk taker who collected motorcycles and fast cars, including a Ferrari and a Shelby he turned over to the government as part of his plea deal.

Federal prosecutors Ben Campbell and Jonathan E. Lopez argued that Rice should receive a reduced prison term in exchange for his testimony against his former colleagues.

"Mr. Skilling would simply say . . . 'this is the number, this is what the number is going to be,' " Rice told jurors in February 2006 about the process of generating financial projections.

Defense lawyers for Rice, who remains free while he awaits word on a prison assignment, did not return calls yesterday.

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