The Association of U S West Retirees



Judge OKs delay in sentencing ex-Qwest finance chief Szeliga
By Sandy Shore
The Associated Press
Denver Post
Friday, April 21, 2006

A federal judge agreed Wednesday to a three-month delay in sentencing ex-Qwest finance chief Robin Szeliga for illegal insider trading but rejected a prosecutor's request to put it off until year- end.

U.S. Attorney Bill Leone sought the postponement because Szeliga is cooperating in the ongoing insider-trading case against former chief executive Joe Nacchio, which has yet to be set for trial.  Under the terms of her plea agreement, Szeliga's prison term could be reduced if her cooperation is deemed substantial.

U.S. District Judge Walker Miller told Leone the case needed to be completed in a timely manner and refused to delay Szeliga's sentencing past July, a deadline set in her plea agreement.

"I do not want to end up deciding this matter in the fall," Miller said.

Szeliga sat alone at a counsel table during the brief court hearing as her attorney, Terry Bird, participated by telephone.  She left the courtroom without comment after the new sentencing date was set for July 28.

Szeliga pleaded guilty July 14 to a single count of illegal insider trading amid the multibillion-dollar accounting scandal at Denver-based Qwest.  She admitted improperly selling 10,000 shares of Qwest stock in 2001 for a net profit of $125,000.

Prosecutors alleged Szeliga sold the stock based on nonpublic information that some Qwest business units would fail to meet revenue targets and that nonrecurring revenue was improperly used to meet those goals.

Szeliga faces up to 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine, although sentencing guidelines recommend a term of 15 months to 21 months.

During the hearing, Leone told Miller that Szeliga's cooperation has been "exemplary to date" in the case against Nacchio, who is accused of 42 counts of illegal insider trading stemming from his sale of $100.8 million in stock.

Leone sought a delay until December to give prosecutors time to determine the extent of her cooperation, noting that Nacchio's trial date isn't expected to be set until early June.

Bird did not oppose a delay but asked that sentencing be completed within three months to four months.

In a pending civil case, Szeliga, Nacchio and other former executives are accused of orchestrating massive financial fraud at Qwest.  The Securities and Exchange Commission has said the fraud at Qwest occurred between April 1999 and March 2002, allowing it to improperly report about $3 billion in revenue that later was restated.