NEW YORK - Bernard Ebbers, who as the once-swaggering CEO of WorldCom oversaw the largest corporate fraud in U.S. history, wept in court Wednesday when a judge sentenced him to 25 years in prison — the toughest sentence yet in the string of recent corporate scandals.
Ebbers, now 63, would go to prison in October and not be eligible for release until he was 85. The sentence was handed down by Judge Barbara Jones of U.S. District Court in Manhattan three years after WorldCom collapsed in an $11 billion accounting fraud, wiping out billions of investor dollars.
"I find that a sentence of anything less would not reflect the seriousness of this crime," Jones said.
Ebbers sniffled audibly and dabbed at his eyes with a white tissue as he was sentenced. He did not address the court. His wife, Kristie Ebbers, cried quietly. Later, the two embraced as the courtroom emptied.
Jones ordered Ebbers to report to prison on Oct. 12. She said she would recommend Ebbers be designated to the federal prison in Yazoo City, Miss., close to his home.