Lea Fastow, wife of former Enron Corp. finance chief Andrew Fastow, will serve her entire one year prison term for helping her husband hide tens of thousands of dollars in ill-gotten kickbacks from the government, a judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge David Hittner denied a request from Lea Fastow's attorney that she be released from prison before her sentence on a tax crime ends in July.
Hittner imposed the maximum prison term possible last year for a misdemeanor charge of filing a false tax form after months of legal wrangling. Lea Fastow wanted to plead guilty to a felony version of the same count in exchange for a term of five months in prison and five months home confinement.
She withdrew her guilty plea to the felony and pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor for endorsing and depositing ill-gotten kickback checks, some of which were written to the couple's young sons, without noting the income on tax returns.
Lea Fastow's attorney, Mike DeGeurin, asked Hittner last week to reduce her sentence to time already served and allow her to go free nearly five months early.
DeGeurin said in the request that she has spent more than seven months "under fluorescent lights, not allowed outside for fresh air even for recreation, in overcrowded conditions without the basic programs offered by a normal institution," and that she "has been serving hard time in the literal sense and without complaint."
Fastow is in the federal detention center in downtown Houston, essentially a federal jail that houses male and female inmates serving time and those facing trial. The 11-story building lacks the space to provide outdoor activities common in minimum-security federal prisons, such as the garden and walking track provided at a federal detention center in Bryan, about 90 miles northwest of Houston.
"While the court recognizes Fastow was assigned to a multi-security level institution within the Bureau of Prisons and is serving her sentence under conditions that may be more harsh as compared to other first-time tax offenders, designation of offenders for place of imprisonment is subject to the complete discretion of the Bureau of Prisons," the judge noted in his ruling Wednesday.
DeGeurin declined comment Wednesday. Andrew Weissmann, head of the Justice Department's Enron Task Force, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Andrew Fastow was indicted in October 2002 on what grew to nearly 100 counts of fraud, insider trading, conspiracy, and others. His wife was indicted on six counts of conspiracy and tax crimes six months later. DeGeurin told Hittner last year that Andrew Fastow agreed at his wife's urging to plead guilty in January to two counts of conspiracy. He admitted to masterminding myriad schemes to manipulate Enron's finances while enriching himself on the side.
Andrew Fastow agreed to serve 10 years in prison when prosecutors no longer need his cooperation on other cases, including the yet-unscheduled conspiracy and fraud trial of Enron founder Kenneth Lay, former CEO Jeffrey Skilling and former top accountant Richard Causey. Those three have pleaded innocent.