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Former Enron Chief Pleads Not Guilty to Conspiracy, Fraud - 2004-02-19

The former chief executive of the energy trading corporation Enron has been arrested in connection with alleged efforts to conceal the imminent collapse of the Houston-based company. Jeffrey Skilling is the highest former Enron official to face criminal charges in the ongoing investigation into the largest corporate bankruptcy in American history, three-years ago.

Jeffrey Skilling pleaded innocent to multiple federal charges, including insider trading, at a hearing in Houston.

At issue is whether top Enron executives enriched themselves while concealing the company's impending collapse from stockholders, federal regulators, and employees, tens of thousands of whom lost their jobs.

In announcing the indictment, Deputy Attorney General James Comey alleged Mr. Skilling oversaw a massive conspiracy to falsify company records.

"And to create the illusion, the illusion, that it was a robust growing company with limitless potential," he said.

In Houston, Skilling attorney Daniel Petrocelli declared his client innocent.

"I guess they need a scapegoat, and I guess Jeff Skilling is their scapegoat," he said.

Last month, former Enron chief financial officer Andrew Fastow pled guilty to conspiracy charges. He agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in their ongoing investigation. Nine corporate officials have been convicted in connection with the 2001 Enron collapse.