Adelphia's John, Timothy Rigas Get August Prison Date

Adelphia Communications Corp. founder John Rigas and his son Timothy were ordered to report to prison by Aug. 13 to begin sentences for looting their cable-TV company.

U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand in Manhattan set the date today for John Rigas, 82, sentenced to 15 years, and Timothy Rigas, 51, the former finance chief, sentenced to 20 years. The judge denied them bail during appeals of their 2004 convictions.

``Practically, what you have here is a guy who's already lost all but an insignificant appeal of his case,'' said Jeff Ifrah, a former federal prosecutor now with the law firm Greenberg Traurig in Washington. ``Everyone knows that it wouldn't have an impact upon his sentence.''

John Rigas is the oldest top executive convicted in the wave of U.S. prosecutions that started after Enron Corp. went bankrupt in 2001. Ex-WorldCom Inc. Chairman Bernard Ebbers, 65, is serving a 25-year term for securities fraud. Ex-Cendant Corp. Chairman Walter Forbes, 64, is to begin a 12-year sentence July 16.

The Rigases were convicted of conspiracy, securities fraud and bank fraud. They have been free on bail in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, where John Rigas started Adelphia in 1952. It was the fifth-largest U.S. cable provider before its 2002 collapse.

An appeals court last month upheld the Rigases' convictions. A further appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is planned, and the men have separately challenged a bank fraud conviction, defense lawyer John Nields told Sand today, arguing without success to keep them at liberty.

`Too Much Time'

``Too much time has elapsed from the time of conviction of these defendants on these very serious charges and the time they begin serving sentence,'' the judge said.

Sand said he imposed the sentences in 2005, almost a year after a 5 1/2-month trial ended with their convictions.

``So we are here today, toward the end of June 2007, and dealing with the sentence imposed in June 2005,'' he said.

Peter Fleming, a lawyer for John Rigas, told the judge much of the time since the sentencing was consumed by complicated financial issues, such as the amount of restitution and fines the men would pay.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Johnson argued against bail. He noted the men were convicted of 15 counts each of securities fraud. ``Every one of those counts has a 10-year exposure,'' Johnson said.

The Rigases declined to comment after the hearing, as did their attorneys.

John Rigas's Health

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons will tell the men where to report to serve their sentences, the judge said. They aren't eligible for a minimum-security camp because their sentences are longer than 10 years, said Ifrah, the former prosecutor, co-author of the book ``Federal Sentencing for Business Crimes.''

John Rigas had heart surgery in 1999 and has bladder cancer. He may leave prison after serving two years if doctors say he has less than three months to live, Sand said at an earlier hearing.

``You don't get to stay out of jail because of your age,'' said Leslie Caldwell, a former lead prosecutor of Enron cases now at the law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in New York. ``I presume he was pretty old when he committed the offenses which he was convicted of.''

The Rigases were found guilty of lying about the source of $1.6 billion used to buy company stock and debt and stealing $51 million in cash advances.

They spent $26.5 million in company money to buy timberland near their home and $13 million to build an Adelphia golf course on land owned by the company and the family, prosecutors said. Adelphia also paid for antiques, family homes and a personal trainer, witnesses said.

Collapse in 2002

The jury deadlocked on charges against another son, Michael, ex-Adelphia operations chief. He pleaded guilty to falsifying records later and was sentenced to 10 months' home confinement.

Adelphia began its collapse on March 27, 2002, when it disclosed the Rigases owed $2.3 billion in off-balance-sheet debt on bank loans taken jointly with the company. Within weeks, the Rigases resigned, Adelphia filed for bankruptcy and John, Timothy and Michael Rigas were arrested.

Last July, Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) and Time Warner Inc. (TWX) bought Adelphia's cable properties for $17.6 billion. On Jan. 3, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in New York approved the company's plan to emerge from bankruptcy, pay creditors and cease doing business. The company is now based in Greenwood Village, Colorado.

The case is U.S. v. Rigas, 1:02-cr-01236, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporters on this story: Patricia Hurtado in U.S. District Court in New York at pathurtado@bloomberg.net; David Voreacos in Newark, New Jersey, at dvoreacos@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Patrick Oster at poster@bloomberg.net.

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