OAKDALE, La. – Former WorldCom Corp. chief Bernard Ebbers drove through the gates of a federal prison Tuesday to begin a 25-year federal prison sentence on Tuesday for his role in the $11 billion accounting fraud that toppled a company he built from a tiny telecommunications firm to an industry giant.
Behind the wheel of a Mercedes he had driven from Mississippi, Ebbers pulled the bill of his cap down, shielding his face from reporters and photographers, as he drove into the prison.
Ebbers left his upscale, brick-and-stucco home in a gated community in the Jackson suburb of Ridgeland about 8 a.m. Tuesday. He arrived shortly after 1 p.m. at Oakdale.
At his home, he had refused to answer any questions and told an Associated Press reporter to leave.
"You're not even supposed to be on this property," said Ebbers, 65, who answered the door wearing a light blue golf shirt and blue jeans.
Ebbers walked outside, with a cigar in his mouth, to watch the reporter leave his property.
Ebbers, a former high school basketball coach, took a small telecommunications firm and transformed it into an industry giant before the Clinton, Miss.-based WorldCom collapsed in bankruptcy in 2002.
"My overall sense of it is it's just a sad day," said Clinton Mayor Rosemary Aultman, whose city dealt with the economic fallout of the scandal. "The collapse of WorldCom was a tragic ending to what had been a fabulous story. So I think the overwhelming emotion continues to be great sadness and disappointment."
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Ebbers' conviction and sentence last month. His attorney has said they will continue to appeal, but he has few options, said Ron Rychlak, associate dean of the University of Mississippi School of Law.
"I understand they're going to ask the 2nd Circuit to reconsider the case on whole. Three judges heard the case against him originally and he could ask all the judges on the court to hear the case," Rychlak said. "It's pretty rare. The other thing would be to ask the Supreme Court to hear the case. That also is a very rarely granted situation."