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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Adelphia founder, son sentenced

Former Adelphia Communications CEO John Rigas enters Manhattan federal court for his sentencing Monday.
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Associated Press

NEW YORK — Adelphia Communications Corp. founder John Rigas was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison by a judge who blamed him for defrauding investors of his bankrupted cable company in one of the largest frauds in corporate history.

“Were it not for your age and health, I would impose a sentence far greater than I do today,” U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand told the 80-year-old Rigas after the one-time high flying cable empire patriarch insisted he meant to do no wrong.

Rigas’ son, Timothy, 48, the company’s former chief financial officer, was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The judge ordered both Rigases to report to prison on Sept. 19.

The pair had faced up to 30 years in prison each on their bank fraud convictions alone. They were also convicted of securities fraud and conspiracy.

“Long ago, he set Adelphia on a track of lying, of cheating, of defrauding,” Sand said of the elder Rigas. “Regrettably for everyone, this was not stopped over 10 years ago. It got more urgent and culminated in one of the largest frauds in corporate history.”

Before the sentence was handed down, Rigas acknowledged that “mistakes were made” in the way he ran the company.

“I may be convicted and sentenced,” said Rigas, “but in my heart and conscience, I’ll go to my grave believing truly that I did nothing but try to improve conditions” for the company and his family.

“Our intentions were good. The results were not,” Timothy Rigas told the judge.

The judge said that if the elder Rigas serves at least two years and is judged by prisons officials to have less than three months to live, prisons officials can ask the court to cut the sentence short.

The Rigases are among a slew of former corporate executives who have faced charges since the fall of Enron in 2001 touched off a parade of white-collar scandals.

The sentencing came just three days after another major white-collar conviction: A state court jury found former Tyco International Ltd. CEO L. Dennis Kozlowski and former Tyco CFO Mark Swartz guilty of looting that company of $600 million.