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U.S. to pursue assets of Enron's Ken Lay

November 16, 2007|From the Associated Press

HOUSTON — A judge says the federal government can proceed with its attempt to seize nearly $13 million from the estate of Enron Corp. founder Kenneth L. Lay.

U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein rejected a request from Lay's widow to halt the government's bid for the money, which prosecutors claim were "proceeds of the fraud proven in the criminal case against Lay."

Kenneth Lay had been convicted in May 2006 of 10 counts of fraud, conspiracy and lying to banks in two separate cases. A judge ruled last fall that Lay's death in July 2006 vacated his convictions because Lay couldn't challenge them.

But Werlein wrote in his ruling that prosecutors had "ample allegations" of criminal activity tied to the cash and property to pursue their civil forfeiture case.

Linda Lay will continue to fight the attempts to seize the assets, which include the family's $6-million condominium, said Samuel Buffone, her attorney.

The government will have to prove his guilt again at a civil forfeiture trial, but the burden of proof is lower than in a criminal case.

Enron, once the nation's seventh-largest company, crumbled into bankruptcy proceedings in December 2001 when years of accounting tricks could no longer hide billions in debt or make failing ventures appear profitable.

The Houston-based company's collapse wiped out thousands of jobs, more than $60 billion in market value and more than $2 billion in pension plans.

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