Son of Adelphia Founder Sentenced in Fraud Case

A son of Adelphia Communications Corp. founder John Rigas was sentenced Friday to 10 months home confinement by a judge who said he was "close to being a pawn" in a family-run cable television business portrayed as a house of fraud.

Michael Rigas, 52, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Manhattan after pleading guilty to a charge of making a false entry in a company record, eliminating the need for his retrial on much more serious securities fraud and bank fraud charges.

Judge Jed S. Rakoff questioned why prosecutors did not just drop the case against the son after a jury acquitted him of some charges and deadlocked on others.

Instead, he said it appeared that the government obtained a "hypertechnical plea" in what amounted to a "face saver."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Gerschwer said the government took into account that it was a costly litigation.

The judge said he had no doubt that Michael Rigas's misconduct "pales in comparison to that of his father and brother."

Rakoff said Michael Rigas was a "good person who found himself at the wrong place and the wrong time for the very understandable reason that he was a member of the family."

In what the judge described as a "colossal fraud, a colossal financial scheme, Mr. Rigas was close to being a pawn, an innocent bystander."

Last year, John Rigas and another son, Timothy, were sentenced after they were convicted of using the company's funds like a bank teller machine as they hid more than $2 billion in company debt.

John Rigas, 80, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and Timothy Rigas was sentenced to 20 years. Both are free pending appeal after their lawyers raised a novel issue of whether the government should have been required to call an expert witness to explain accounting principles to the jury.

Former Adelphia assistant treasurer Michael Mulcahey was tried with the Rigases but was acquitted of all charges.

Michael Rigas, who now works for another cable company, was Adelphia's former executive vice president for operations.

"I'm just relieved it's over and glad to move on with my life," he said outside court after hugging his tearful father, who said he was proud of his son for his honesty.