Ex-WorldCom Accountant Gets Prison Time

Pressed to say how she chose which entries to change, Betty Vinson reportedly testified, "I just really pulled some out of the air. I used some spreadsheets."

Betty Vinson, a former accounting manager at WorldCom Inc., was sentenced Friday morning to five months in prison and five months of house arrest for her role in the $11 billion accounting fraud at the erstwhile telecommunications giant.

Later in the day, Troy Normand, another former accounting manager, was sentenced to three years of probation, according to the Associated Press. The relatively light sentence reportedly came after a prosecutor’s statement to the judge that Normand was “at the very bottom” of the six people who have been convicted or pleaded guilty in the WorldCom scandal.

In October 2002, Vinson and Normand, both certified public accountants who worked in WorldCom’s general accounting department and aided in the preparation of financial documents, each pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud in Manhattan federal court.

Vinson testified at the trial of their former boss, Bernard Ebbers, who was found guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. She told the court that “I felt like if I didn’t make the entries, I wouldn’t be working there,” according to the AP. She also said she had drafted a letter of resignation in 2000 but decided to remain with the company.

When pressed about how she decided which entries to change, Vinson reportedly testified, “I just really pulled some out of the air. I used some spreadsheets.”

Although Vinson’s attorney sought to limit her sentence to probation, Judge Barbara Jones of U.S. District Court in Manhattan said it was necessary to impose some prison time, according to Reuters. The judge, however, said she was imposing a reduced sentence because Vinson’s cooperation with prosecutors “played a very significant role in the unraveling of the fraud.” Vinson had been facing as much as 14 years in prison, according to the wire service.

Next week, former WorldCom director of general accounting Buford Yates, former controller David Myers, and former CFO Scott Sullivan are scheduled to learn their fates.

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