Lea Fastow Heads to Prison, Will Serve 12 Months

Lea Fastow (search), the wife of former Enron finance chief Andrew Fastow (search), reported to a strict federal prison on Monday, not the prison camp for women she had hoped for, to begin serving a yearlong sentence for a misdemeanor tax crime.

The 42-year-old real estate and grocery heiress pleaded guilty in May, admitting that she helped her husband hide money from financial schemes that fueled the one-time energy giant's December 2001 failure.

Fastow's legal team had asked that the judge to recommend the Federal Bureau of Prisons place her in a minimum-security camp for women in Bryan, about 90 miles northwest of Houston. But U.S. District Judge David Hittner refused to recommend a specific institution, and the prisons bureau last month assigned her to the Houston prison, four miles from her home in an affluent neighborhood here and a mile from Enron's (search) former headquarters.

Fastow reported several hours early. "She knows she was due here at 2 o'clock and she wanted to get it going," said her lawyer, Mike DeGeurin. "If the judge says do 12 pushups, she's going to do 13."

Andrew Fastow stayed home with their children, two sons under age 10, DeGeurin said.

The prison is more restrictive than minimum-security camps because it houses inmates -- both men and women -- of all kinds of security classifications. Most are there for drug crimes.

Lea Fastow was indicted last year on six felony tax and conspiracy charges for crimes that occurred after she quit her job as Enron's assistant treasurer in 1997.

Her husband already had been indicted in what grew to 98 counts of conspiracy, fraud, insider trading and other charges.

According to DeGeurin, she persuaded Andrew Fastow to cut a deal with prosecutors and plead guilty while her legal team negotiated a deal for her.

Andrew Fastow pleaded guilty in January to two counts of conspiracy and will serve the maximum 10 years in prison when prosecutors no longer need his cooperation. Lea Fastow got the maximum 12-month sentence for the misdemeanor.

She had hoped to serve her time at a the prison camp for women in Bryan, where the couple's two young sons could have enjoyed playground equipment during visits. She could have worn shorts and T-shirts, played softball, and perhaps tended to one of the complex's vegetable and flower gardens.

Instead, she will share an 8-foot-by-10-foot cell in a gray, 11-story building where the only chance to go outside is during brief and rare outings on the roof. She'll probably prepare food or wash bed sheets for less than 50 cents a day.

Because of their two sons, the Fastows wanted to avoid simultaneous prison sentences.

That should be achieved because Andrew Fastow is expected to be a key witness in a pending case, yet to be scheduled for trial, against former Enron chairman Kenneth Lay (search), former CEO Jeffrey Skilling (search) and former accounting chief Richard Causey (search).

That case is expected to take months of preparation followed by months of testimony. Lay's lawyers hope he will be tried separately as early as September this year.

Lay was indicted last week on 11 counts of fraud and conspiracy. He was added as a defendant to the existing fraud, conspiracy and insider trading case against Skilling and Causey. All three pleaded innocent.