Former Enron CFO Andrew Fastow surrendered to the Federal Bureau of Investigation at its Houston office Wednesday morning, according to press reports.
The erstwhile finance chief was accompanied by his attorney, John Keker. After Fastow turned himself in, Keker quickly left. About a half hour later, Fastow was seen being led away in handcuffs by two agents.
Fastow, 40, was slated to be arraigned Wednesday on charges of securities, wire, and mail fraud; money laundering; and conspiring to inflate Enron’s profits and enrich himself at the company’s expense.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has also been hot on the ex-CFO’s heels: in an action related to the criminal complaint, the commission filed a civil suit against Fastow, charging him with defrauding investors and breaking securities laws.
The criminal complaint charges that Fastow and others created a scheme to defraud Enron and its shareholders through transactions with off-the-books partnerships that made the company look more profitable than it was.
Fastow’s arrest is a major coup for the Justice Department. After bringing charges against alleged corporate wrongdoers at WorldCom and Adelphia Communications, the DOJ had been under enormous pressure to bring criminal cases against executives who ran Enron before the energy-trading company’s bankruptcy filing in December. Charges against Fastow, the most prominent Enron figure busted so far, should go a long way toward relieving that.
The DOJ’s Enron task force first signaled in June that it had gathered enough evidence to bring criminal charges against Fastow. That month, federal prosecutors filed a criminal wire-fraud complaint against three former employees of Britain’s National Westminster Bank, identifying Fastow as a central figure in the case.
Fastow’s former right-hand man, then—Enron managing director Michael Kopper, identified his former boss as a major player in the scheme that led to Enron’s bankruptcy. He fingered Fastow in connection with a plea-bargain arrangement he struck with the feds in August.
According to Dow Jones, government officials preferred to bring all potential criminal charges against Fastow at once, rather than charging him with a narrow range of crimes relating to alleged self-dealing and broadening the charges later.
So while prosecutors easily could have charged Fastow months ago, they chose not to bring any formal actions against him until the government’s investigation into his conduct had progressed further.
The day after Kopper struck his plea deal, a federal judge froze more than $23 million in bank and brokerage accounts held by Fastow and his wife, his family foundation, his brother Peter, several former Enron employees, and two holding companies, alleging that the accounts held money from illegal Enron deals devised by Fastow and Kopper.
Prosecutors also are going after Fastow’s newly built $2.6 million home in Houston’s wealthiest neighborhood, River Oaks, and want to freeze an added $11 million of Fastow’s assets.
“Today’s complaint demonstrates the effectiveness of a swift, coordinated law-enforcement response to even the most sophisticated financial crimes,” deputy attorney general Larry Thompson told a Washington news conference. “Our strategy is straightforward. We aim to put the bad guys in prison and take away their money.”