The wife of former Enron Corp. finance chief Andrew Fastow is negotiating a plea bargain with prosecutors, a newspaper reported Thursday.

The Houston Chronicle, citing anonymous sources, reported in its online edition that Lea Fastow could appear in court next week to plead guilty and possibly begin a term of at least five months in prison.

However, any such deal must be approved by U.S. District Judge David Hittner.

Lea Fastow, 41, is a former assistant treasurer at Houston-based Enron, which in December 2001 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after its stock collapsed.

She is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering conspiracy and four counts of filing false tax forms for allegedly participating in some of the Enron schemes.

She has pleaded innocent and is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 10.

It wasn’t clear to what charge she may plead guilty. The newspaper reported the lowest maximum prison term for any of her charges is three years in prison, plus fines.

Her lawyers, led by Mike DeGeurin of Houston, declined comment to The Associated Press, as did Gordon Andrew, a spokesman for the Fastow family. Leslie Caldwell, head of the Justice Department’s Enron Task Force, didn’t immediately return a call for comment.

When her indictment was unsealed in May, her attorneys said she had done nothing wrong, adding, “Mrs. Fastow is being charged in order to put pressure on her husband of 18 years, Andy Fastow. These tactics are unfair and unjust.”

Andrew Fastow faces 98 counts of money laundering, fraud, insider trading and other charges for allegedly masterminding myriad schemes to inflate Enron’s profits, hide company debt and enrich himself, his family and others in the process.

He pleaded innocent and is scheduled for trial April 20.

If Lea Fastow were to begin serving a five-month prison sentence this month, her term would be finished when her husband’s trial begins. The couple has two young children, and an unidentified Fastow family friend told the newspaper Lea Fastow’s desire to have one parent at home was a factor in the discussions.

The federal investigation into Enron’s 2001 collapse has produced guilty pleas from six former Enron executives and pending criminal charges against a dozen.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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