A former Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. executive who secretly recorded conversations that snared the company in a global price-fixing case pleaded guilty Friday to swindling ADM out of $9 million.
Mark E. Whitacre pleaded to 37 counts, including wire fraud, conspiracy, money laundering, interstate transportation of stolen property and filing a false income tax return.
Sentencing was set for Jan. 13. Prosecutors said they wanted Whitacre to serve at least 6 1/2 years in prison--a fraction of the maximum sentence.
Whitacre, former head of the giant agribusiness company's bio-products division, was asked by U.S. District Judge Harold Baker in Urbana, Ill., whether he had studied a plea agreement offered by federal prosecutors.
"For many hours I did," Whitacre said. Asked whether he wanted to go ahead with the plea, he answered, "Very much, Your Honor."
The plea caps his fall from being a major FBI weapon against alleged corporate crime to an admitted criminal. In a separate federal case, Whitacre still faces trial in Chicago next year on additional charges of working to fix prices for the livestock-feed supplement lysine. Scheduled to go to trial along with him in that case are Michael Andreas, the son of ADM chairman Dwayne Andreas, and retired executive Terrance Wilson.
"There's absolutely no tie-in between the price-fixing case in Chicago and this case," Assistant U.S. Atty. Donald Mackay said.
Whitacre seemed relaxed as he appeared in court and answered detailed personal questions from the judge.
He said he has been under a doctor's care, has been diagnosed as manic-depressive and takes lithium.
A telephone call seeking comment from ADM officials at the company's headquarters in Decatur, Ill., was not returned immediately.