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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Adelphia Founder Gets 15-Year Term

NEW YORK -- Adelphia Communications founder John Rigas was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in looting and hiding debt in a scandal that bankrupted the cable television company.

U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand said during Monday's sentencing that he would have imposed a much harsher sentence but for Rigas' age -- he is 80 -- and poor health.

Rigas' son, Timothy, 48, the company's former chief financial officer, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The judge ordered both men to report to prison on Sept. 19.

The pair had faced up to 30 years in prison each on bank fraud convictions alone. They were also convicted of securities fraud and conspiracy.

U.S. sentencing guidelines would make the sentence far less than 30 years, but the Supreme Court has ruled that federal judges should consider the guidelines as advisory, not mandatory.

"Long ago, he set Adelphia on a track of lying, of cheating, of defrauding," Sand said of the elder Rigas. "Regrettably for everyone, this was not stopped over 10 years ago. It got more urgent and culminated in one of the largest frauds in corporate history."

Before the sentence was handed down, Rigas acknowledged that "mistakes were made" in the way he ran the company, but said he intended no wrong.

"I may be convicted and sentenced," Rigas said, "but in my heart and conscience, I'll go to my grave believing truly that I did nothing but try to improve conditions" for the company and his family.

Sand said that if Rigas served at least two years and was judged by prison officials to have less than three months to live, prison officials could ask the court to cut the sentence short.

The Rigas sentencing came just three days after another major white-collar conviction: A state court jury found former Tyco International CEO Dennis Kozlowski and former Tyco CFO Mark Swartz guilty of looting that company of $600 million.

Former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers faces sentencing next month after he was convicted of presiding over that company's record $11 billion accounting fraud.

John Rigas founded Adelphia with a $300 license in 1952, took it public in 1986 and built it into a cable titan by acquiring other systems in the 1990s. The company, then based in Pennsylvania, collapsed into bankruptcy in 2002 after it disclosed a staggering $2.3 billion in off-balance-sheet debt. It now operates under bankruptcy protection in Greenwood Village, Colorado.

At the trial, prosecutors said the Rigases used complicated cash-management systems to spread money around to various family-owned entities and as a cover for stealing about $100 million. The Rigases are among a slew of former executives who have faced charges since the fall of Enron in 2001 touched off a parade of white-collar scandals.