Ebbers Remains Free on Bail for Appeal

Bernard Ebbers (search), former head of WorldCom Inc. (search), will be allowed to remain free on bail as his attorneys appeal his March conviction on multiple counts of fraud, according to a ruling made on Wednesday in New York.

U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Jones's ruling means that Ebbers would not have to report to a medium-security prison in Oakdale, La. as scheduled on Oct. 12.

Ebbers was sentenced Wednesday to 25 years in prison for his role in the telecommunications giant's $11 billion accounting fraud.

Ebbers is the first of six former WorldCom executives and accountants facing sentencing this summer. The other five all pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate against their former boss. WorldCom emerged from bankruptcy as MCI Inc.

Ebbers resigned as CEO in 2002, shortly before the widespread fraud at the company came to light. Investigators eventually uncovered $11 billion in improper accounting.

That summer, WorldCom collapsed in the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history, wiping out billions of dollars of investors' money. It has since re-emerged under the name MCI Inc. (MCIP), based in Ashburn, Va.

At trial, Ebbers argued he was completely unaware of the fraud, and that he simply did not look at some key WorldCom financial documents that showed glaring accounting irregularities.

Five other WorldCom executives and accountants, all of whom pleaded guilty in the fraud and cooperated against Ebbers, face sentencing later this summer.

The toughest figures to go to Scott Sullivan (search), the former finance chief under Ebbers, who said he carried out the fraud in 2000, 2001 and 2002 on Ebbers' orders.

WorldCom remains the largest of the corporate frauds that began making headlines with the fall of Enron Corp. (search) in late 2001. Three top executives from that company are due to go on trial in Houston in January.