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Former Dynegy Executive Sentenced to 24 Years in Prison

He faced a maximum term of 35 years in prison.

The lawyer and accountant was convicted in November on six counts of criminal conspiracy and securities, wire and mail fraud for his involvement in the 2001 financial transaction dubbed “Project Alpha.”

Olis and his colleagues planned the complex scheme to disguise a $300 million loan as cash flow. Testimony from Olis’ trial shows that the former executive also lied to Dynegy’s auditors about the transaction.

U.S. District Judge Sim Lake listened to arguments for leniency for the 38-year-old first-time offender before sentencing him. Lake also charged Olis $25,000 and allowed him to remain free on bond and turn himself into prison.

Olis’ former colleagues Gene Foster and Helen Sharkey were also charged for the scheme. Foster and Sharkey each pleaded guilty in August to one count of conspiracy, in exchange for prison terms of up to five years. Foster testified against Olis, his former employee, in his November trial. Neither Foster nor Sharkey has yet been formally sentenced.

The government released a pre-sentencing report in January 2004 branding Olis as solely responsible for the $100 million decline in Dynegy’s stock value between June 2001 and December 2002.

Lake sentenced Olis under new federal sentencing guidelines adopted in 2001, which require judges to consider victims’ losses, including those of shareholders.

“I take no pleasure in sentencing you to 292 months, but my job is to follow the law,” said Lake, who is also presiding over the cases against former Enron officials Jeffrey Skilling and Richard Causey.

“The jury found you guilty of a serious crime. Sometimes good people commit bad acts. I hope you will be able to salvage some of your life and some of your family’s life.”

Olis’ lawyers protested the new guidelines, saying they “effectively quadruple” the sentence the accountant would otherwise have faced. The stiffer guidelines were not implemented until after Olis committed his crime.

Olis’ lawyer, David Gerger, said that the sentence was unfairly harsh.

“It’s a horrific sentence,” he protested.

Gerger argued that the former executive earned no more than $40,000 from the Project Alpha scheme.

“Today a witch hunt netted the government a very small fish. Jamie did not enrich himself, he’s never been in trouble, he’s a young man starting a family, and his boss knew and approved what he did.”

Court papers show Olis also sold about $200,000 worth of Dynegy stock for an undisclosed sum in 2001.

The Texas power giant had proposed an acquisition of Enron in 2001, but pulled out of the deal before Enron filed for bankruptcy protection late that year.

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