Adelphia founder, son report to prison


RALEIGH, N.C. -- John and Timothy Rigas lived a high life on the tab of Adelphia Communications: more than a dozen company cars, a hundred pairs of bedroom slippers for Tim and thousands of acres of timberland bought only to preserve the view outside John's Pennsylvania home.

The price for looting one of the nation's largest cable television companies is: Years at a low-security federal prison in North Carolina, living hundred of miles from home in a dormitory, working seven hours a day in the prison kitchen, warehouse or outside as a groundskeeper.

After fighting one of the nation's largest corporate fraud cases, Adelphia founder John Rigas and his son Tim, the company's former chief financial officer, turned themselves in Monday at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex, located about 45 minutes northwest of Raleigh.

John Rigas, 82, was sentenced to 15 years and Timothy Rigas, 51, to 20 years for their role in the collapse of Adelphia. They were convicted in 2004 on multiple charges of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud.

They had remained free while their appeals navigated the court system, a repose that ended in June when U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand gave the father and son until Aug. 13 to report to prison.

The pair had asked that they be allowed to serve their time together at a facility close to their homes in Coudersport, Pa. Instead, the federal Bureau of Prisons sent them to Butner, home to a low-security prison, two medium-security facilities and a medical center for male inmates.

Among the inmates at Butner are Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard and former North Carolina Democratic Rep. Frank Ballance. Sami al-Arian, a Palestinian who taught computer science at the University of South Florida and admitted in a plea bargain to conspiring to aid Palestinian Islamic Jihad, was held at the medical prison earlier this year during a two-month hunger strike.

The elder Rigas has a history of health problems, including bladder cancer. A prison spokeswoman wouldn't say if his health would exempt him from the work duty required of all prisoners. When asked about John Rigas' age and health in the face of the 15-year sentence, his attorney, Peter Fleming Jr., said, "You can draw your own conclusions. I have nothing to say."

Attorney John W. Nields Jr., who handled Tim Rigas' appeal, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Prosecutors claimed the Rigases made Adelphia's finances appear more robust when they were in fact dangerously overextended by concealing nearly $2.3 billion of the company's debt.

In a decision upholding their convictions, a federal appeals court said the family looted more than $200 million from Adelphia, spending the money on personal expenses that ranged $3 million to produce a film by John Rigas' daughter to $6,000 to fly two Christmas trees to New York.

Another of John Rigas' sons, Michael Rigas, also received 10 months of home confinement after pleading guilty to making a false entry in a company record.

Authorities began investigating the company in 2002 after the company announced its 2001 results with a press release that included a footnote saying Adelphia had billions in liabilities not previously reported on its balance sheet.

Even after their convictions, the Rigases wrangled with prosecutors for a year about restitution for Adelphia stockholders before they were sentenced.

The pair still hope an appeals court might grant them a new trial, based in part on an argument that the star witness against them, Adelphia's former vice president of finance, James Brown, gave differing accounts of the alleged fraud in civil and criminal court proceedings. The two also hope the U.S. Supreme Court will hear an appeal.