HOUSTON -- A federal judge ordered a 24-year prison sentence yesterday for a former Dynegy Inc. executive in an accounting fraud case that fell under tough new punishment rules aimed at discouraging corporate corruption.
Jamie Olis will serve nearly all of his sentence of 24 years and four months, as there is no parole in the federal system. He is 38, and would be behind bars until he is 62.
"I take no pleasure in sentencing you to 292 months," US District Judge Sim Lake said in ordering the prison term. "Sometimes good people commit bad acts, and that's what happened in this case."
The punishment "reflects Congress's intent that white-collar corporate fraud defendants receive harsh sentences," Lake observed from the bench.
The sentence easily surpassed those of some much more prominent fraud cases, and dwarfed those of some Enron Corp. executives who have pleaded guilty in that company's accounting scandal. Olis took the chance of a trial and was convicted.
Federal probation authorities maintained that Olis's actions in illegally disguising company debt in 2001 eventually resulted in more than $500 million in Dynegy stock losses, and they had asked for 24 to 30 years in prison.
The maximum possible sentence was 35 years for one count each of conspiracy, securities fraud, mail fraud, and three counts of wire fraud.
Lake's courtroom was packed with Olis supporters wearing yellow ribbons. Among them were his wife Monica and the couple's 6-month-old daughter. Many, including Olis himself, quietly wept after Lake announced his decision.
Olis's attorneys contended that the government can't possibly pinpoint stock losses caused by disclosures of a 2001 deal that wrongly boosted cash flow because Dynegy, like other energy merchants, was besieged by months of bad news in the aftermath of Enron's collapse in December 2001.