A mid-level executive for Enron Corp.'s defunct broadband unit pleaded guilty Tuesday to filing false tax returns that failed to identify more than $79,000 in income from 1997 to 2000.
The tax-evasion charge stems from a 1997 deal to sell wind farms Enron owned in California.
Larry Lawyer, 34, became the fourth person federal prosecutors have secured a guilty plea in their probe of Enron. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in December after revelations about years of inflated profit and hidden debt.
Lawyer, who was among thousands of employees laid off the day after Enron filed for bankruptcy protection, faces up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. He is scheduled to be sentenced in February.
After a brief appearance before U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt, Lawyer was released on $50,000 bond.
The buyers of the wind farm were friends of former Enron Chief Financial Officer Andrew S. Fastow and his aide, Michael Kopper.
Lawyer's attorney, Robert Sussman, said his client was working for Enron Capital Trade when he was involved in handling the wind farm sales. Kopper gave Lawyer four payments, one per year from 1997 to 2000, which Kopper called gifts, Sussman said. The payments totaled $79,468.23. Of that amount, Lawyer owed the federal government more than $29,000. He admitted Tuesday that he did not report the money.
"Even if Mr. Kopper told him it was a gift, he should have reported it," Sussman said.
Lawyer plans to give the $79,000 to former Enron employees through a relief fund set up for the thousands of workers who lost their jobs and retirement accounts.
Others who have pleaded guilty to charges as a result of the Enron probe are: Arthur Andersen's former auditor in charge of the Enron account, David B. Duncan, who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice; Kopper, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering; and a former top Enron trader from Portland, Ore., Timothy Velden, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud for scheming to manipulate the California energy market.