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Former Enron Corp. chairman and CEO Kenneth Lay has been indicted on criminal charges related to the energy company’s collapse as a web of accounting schemes unraveled, sources close to the case told The Associated Press on Wednesday. Lay, the company’s founder, was expected to surrender to federal authorities Thursday, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Two sources said the indictment against Lay, 62, was expected to be unsealed upon or shortly after his surrender to the FBI. Prosecutors from the Justice Department’s Enron Task Force presented an indictment to U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Milloy in Houston on Wednesday. At their request, the judge sealed both the indictment and an arrest warrant. A hearing before Milloy was scheduled for late Thursday morning. Michael Ramsey, Lay’s attorney, didn’t immediately return a call for comment. Lay has consistently maintained his innocence. It was unclear specifically what charges Lay would face. But the sources said they probably would allege he participated in hiding Enron’s dire financial condition from investors, analysts and the public in the weeks before the energy company crumbled into bankruptcy in December 2001. Prosecutors have aggressively pursued the one-time friend and contributor to President Bush who led Enron’s rise to No. 7 in the Fortune 500 and resigned within weeks of its stunning failure. Barring last-minute delays, Lay is the 30th and highest-profile individual charged. Enron had more than 20,000 employees worldwide before the company imploded amid revelations of hidden debt, inflated profits and accounting tricks. The company’s collapse led a series of corporate scandals that sent investors fleeing and sparked numerous investigations. Thousands of Enron’s workers lost their jobs and stock fell from a high of $90 in August 2000 to just pennies. The charges against Lay come 2 1/2 years after the federal government launched its painstaking investigation. The indictment takes the task force to the top of the fallen company’s former senior management. Former CEO Jeffrey Skilling and former top accountant Richard Causey are awaiting trial on charges of conspiracy, fraud and insider trading. Both pleaded innocent and are free on bond. And waiting to testify for the prosecution is former finance chief Andrew Fastow, who pleaded guilty to two conspiracy counts in January. Fastow admitted to engineering partnerships and financial schemes to hide Enron debt and inflate profits while pocketing millions for himself. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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