Ex-Rite Aid exec sentenced in scandal

/ Source: The Associated Press

A federal judge sentenced a former Rite Aid Corp. vice president Tuesday to five months in jail for his role in an accounting scandal that sent the company's stock tumbling and forced it to restate its earnings for the late 1990s by $1.6 billion.

Eric Sorkin, Rite Aid's former vice president for pharmacy purchasing, was the first of six defendants to be sentenced in the case. Three others, including former chairman and chief executive officer Martin L. Grass, are to be sentenced later this week by U.S. District Judge Sylvia H. Rambo.

"I'm not making excuses for what I did. It was wrong," Sorkin told Rambo, who also said he would face five months of home confinement upon his release from jail, two years' probation and a $5,000 fine.

Sorkin pleaded guilty in June to one count of conspiring to obstruct justice.

He faced a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, although prosecutors said they would recommend leniency if he took responsibility for his actions. When he entered his plea last June, Sorkin apologized to Rambo and his family and said he accepted "full responsibility."

The sentence was not immediately entered into the record Tuesday. Rambo suspended imposition of sentence for a few days until she and the attorneys sort out whether Sorkin can have access to a work release program while he in prison.

On Wednesday, Rambo was scheduled to sentence two other former Rite Aid executives who have pleaded guilty to conspiracy _ former chief financial officer Franklyn M. Bergonzi and senior vice president of store development Philip Markovitz.

Grass, 50, who is to be sentenced Thursday, pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to defraud Rite Aid stockholders and conspiring to obstruct justice at the Camp Hill-based drugstore chain that his father founded. He faces as much as 10 years in prison under a recently negotiated plea deal.

Timothy J. Noonan, the former president and chief operating officer who helped federal prosecutors build their case against his ex-colleagues, is scheduled to be sentenced June 8 for his guilty plea to one count of withholding information from the company's internal auditors.

No sentencing date has been set for Franklin C. Brown, 76, the pharmacy chain's former chief counsel and board vice chairman, who stood trial in October. A jury convicted him of 10 criminal counts, including conspiracy, obstruction of grand jury proceedings and witness tampering.