Richard Carson  /  Reuters
Lea Fastow, center, arrives at the Federal Detention center in downtown Houston last July. The wife of Enron’s ex-finance chief ended a one-year prison term for a tax crime Friday.
updated 7/8/2005 10:58:30 AM ET 2005-07-08T14:58:30

The wife of former Enron Corp. finance chief Andrew Fastow was released Friday from a halfway house, ending a year’s prison term for failing to declare her husband’s illegal kickbacks as income, her attorney said.

Lea Fastow left the center shortly after midnight and was greeted by her husband and sister. She did not comment before she was driven away.

“She is home with the kids, who were allowed to stay up to greet her,” said her attorney, Mike DeGeurin, referring to the couple’s young sons. “She made no statement and wants some private, quiet time with her family.”

Lea Fastow pleaded guilty last year to a misdemeanor tax crime for failing to report on joint tax returns the gains from kickbacks the couple pocketed from Andrew Fastow’s illegal dealings at Enron, an energy company that collapsed in late 2001.

She began serving her yearlong sentence at the 11-story federal detention center in downtown Houston on July 12, 2004, and was transferred to the Leidel Comprehensive Sanction Center a few blocks away last month to finish the last six weeks.

She will remain under supervision of a federal parole officer for another year.

Weingarten, grocery heiress
An heiress to the Weingarten real estate and grocery fortune, Lea Fastow rose to assistant treasurer at Enron before she quit in 1997 to stay home with her children. Unlike her husband, she was never accused of any crimes at the company.

She was indicted in 2003, six months after her husband was indicted on what grew to 98 counts of fraud, conspiracy, insider trading, money laundering and others.

According to DeGeurin, she coaxed her husband into pleading guilty in January 2004 to two counts of conspiracy. He admitted to orchestrating schemes to hide Enron debt and inflate profits while pocketing millions of dollars. He agreed to serve the maximum 10-year sentence, but he can shave a year and a half from that term with good time credit.

The couple also forfeited or relinquished their rights to nearly $30 million in cash and property, including a vacation home in Vermont.

She withdrew her guilty plea to a felony tax crime, also entered in January last year, when U.S. District Judge David Hittner refused to agree to sentence her to five months in prison and five months confined at home — the same sentence later imposed on domestic diva Martha Stewart after she was convicted at trial of lying about a stock sale.

Prosecutors then filed the misdemeanor charge, to which Lea Fastow pleaded guilty. Hittner sentenced her to the maximum sentence of one year.

Andrew Fastow is expected to be a key witness in the January conspiracy and fraud trial of Enron founder Kenneth Lay, former CEO Jeffrey Skilling and former top accountant Richard Causey. He is to be sentenced in June 2006.

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