The wife of former Enron Corp. finance (search) chief Andrew Fastow (search) left a federal prison in Houston early Monday to serve the last month of her one-year sentence for a tax crime in a halfway house, her lawyer said.

Lea Fastow (search), 43, exited a federal detention center flanked by her husband, her sister and her lawyers, Mike DeGeurin and Jennifer Ahlen.

DeGeurin told The Associated Press that Lea Fastow was released from the federal detention center at 4 a.m. to report to a halfway house a few blocks away in downtown Houston by 4:15 a.m.

"It's been a tough year, but it's supposed to be a tough year," she told the Houston Chronicle in Monday's online edition. "I am going home to my family soon. That's exactly what I'm looking forward to."

She is slated to be released from the halfway house July 10. She began serving her sentence on July 12, 2004. Tracy Billingsley, a spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons (search), didn't immediately return a call.

Lea Fastow pleaded guilty last year to a misdemeanor tax crime for failing to report on her and her husband's joint tax returns ill-gotten gains from kickbacks they pocketed from his myriad illegal dealings at Enron. Her misdemeanor plea came after she had initially pleaded guilty to one of six felonies stemming from the same crimes, which included endorsing and depositing checks made out to the couple's two young sons.

Lea Fastow was indicted in April 2003 on six felony counts of conspiracy and filing false tax forms. Her indictment came six months after her husband was initially indicted on what would grow to 98 counts of fraud, conspiracy, insider trading, money laundering and others.

She initially began plea talks in late 2003, but those negotiations broke down until early January 2004. By that time, she had coaxed her husband into pleading guilty as well.

She pleaded guilty to a felony tax crime, while her husband pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy for orchestrating schemes to hide Enron debt and inflate profits while pocketing millions of dollars for himself on the side. The couple also agreed to forfeit to the government or give up their rights to nearly $30 million in cash and property, including a vacation home in Vermont.

However, her plea deal was different from that of her husband. Lea Fastow's felony plea required U.S. District Judge David Hittner to agree up front to a sentence of five months in prison and five months of home confinement — the same sentence later imposed on domestic diva Martha Stewart (search) after she was convicted by a jury of lying about a stock sale. Andrew Fastow's plea deal had no such requirement, though he agreed to serve the maximum 10 years for two counts of conspiracy.

Hittner balked, saying he reserved final say over a sentence after receiving recommendations from federal probation officials in a pre-sentencing report. Lea Fastow withdrew her felony plea, and he scheduled her trial for July 2004.

Then prosecutors filed the misdemeanor charge against her, to which she pleaded guilty. For the felony, she faced a sentencing range of 10-16 months. The misdemeanor limited Hittner to the maximum of a year, which he imposed.