Enron exec who pleaded guilty is freed
Michael Kopper, a former Enron Corp. executive convicted of helping ex-Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow skim millions of dollars from the energy trader, was released Friday from federal custody after serving less than two-thirds of his sentence.
Kopper, 43, was the first Enron executive to cut a deal, pleading guilty to two conspiracy counts and cooperating with prosecutors pursuing other company officials. In 2006, a federal judge who heard Kopper testify sentenced him to 37 months, compared with the 15-year maximum term he agreed to in his plea.
He was released from a Houston halfway house, where he had been since late October, said Linda Thomas, spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Kopper served about 23 months of his sentence, mostly in low-security prisons in Texarkana and Big Spring, Texas.
Kopper was Fastow’s top lieutenant and managed daily operations and negotiations for LJM2, a Fastow-controlled partnership the two men used to steal millions from Enron. Prosecutors said Kopper’s assistance was crucial in obtaining charges against Fastow, who also pleaded guilty and is serving a six-year sentence in federal prison in Oakdale, La.
Kopper left Enron in 2000 to manage LJM2, a partnership that used money from Enron and investors to buy underperforming and overpriced assets the company wanted off its balance sheet.
Kopper kicked back part of LJM2’s proceeds to Fastow through checks written to Fastow’s two young sons. Lee Fastow, the former CFO’s wife, served a year in prison for endorsing the checks and failing to report them as income on her family’s tax return.
More than 5,000 jobs and $1 billion in employee retirement funds were wiped out when Enron plunged into bankruptcy in December 2001, after widespread accounting fraud was revealed.
“I am horrified I contributed to the pain these people have suffered,” Kopper said of Enron’s employees and shareholders at his sentencing. “We took this trust, and we just threw it away.”
Kopper forfeited $8 million in illegal proceeds from the Fastow partnerships and gave up claims to an additional $4 million in deferred Enron compensation. He will serve two years of supervised release.