NEW YORK — The former director of general accounting at WorldCom was sentenced Tuesday to one year and one day in prison for his role in the company’s record $11 billion fraud.
The sentence for Buford “Buddy” Yates, 49, came nearly three years after he pleaded guilty to helping WorldCom overstate its earnings from 2000 to 2002 in a scandal that bankrupted the telecom company.
Yates pleaded guilty to fraud in October 2002, telling a judge he was instructed by superiors to make adjustments to company books that had “no justification” and were designed to meet Wall Street expectations.
“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think back to my actions and regret my decisions,” Yates told U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones. “I chose the easy way out.”
The judge said Yates had been “perhaps the least useful” of all the cooperators with the government’s case. She said Yates appeared to have been motivated by “a reluctance to upset the apple cart” at the company.
The judge also imposed a $5,000 fine and ordered Yates to report to federal prison Oct. 10.
The extra day in the sentence means Yates will be eligible to have his prison term reduced, although only by a matter of weeks, for good behavior.
While Yates did not testify at the trial of ex-CEO Bernard Ebbers, his lawyer has said he strenuously objected to making the changes but was told they had been approved by the highest levels of WorldCom management.
Yates is one of five former WorldCom executives who pleaded guilty to fraud and helped the government build its case against Ebbers, who was sentenced last month to 25 years in prison.
Last week, Betty Vinson, a former WorldCom accounting official who said she pulled some numbers “out of the air” when she helped fudge company books, was sentenced to five months in prison.
Another former accounting official, Troy Normand, was sentenced to three years of probation after a federal prosecutor said his role in the fraud was less than Vinson’s.
Two other former executives who were higher in the company — controller David Myers and chief financial officer Scott Sullivan, the star witness against Ebbers — will be sentenced.
The fraud plunged WorldCom into bankruptcy in 2002. It has since emerged under the name MCI Inc.
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