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The former chief executive of a bankrupt long-distance telephone provider has been convicted on 68 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and filing false tax returns. Arne Soreide could face up to 551 years in prison and fines of up to $1 million when sentenced Sept. 24. Jurors, in convicting Soreide last week, also determined he should forfeit $7.5 million in proceeds garnered through his company’s fraud, plus his Boca Raton, Fla., home. Federal prosecutors said Accutel Communications defrauded customers and long-distance suppliers by “slamming,” or switching a customer’s long distance carrier without permission, and “cramming,” or placing unsolicited recurring charges of $4.95 on monthly bills. Soreide also obtained long distance service from wholesale carriers without fully paying for it, diverted millions of his company’s assets for his personal use and misrepresented his income in 1998 by $3.5 million on his tax returns, prosecutors said. The biggest losers in the scheme were the four long-distance wholesalers who were paid for only a fraction of the time Accutel used, prosecutors said. Accutel received more than $1 million in service from Sprint Corp., but paid only $3.47. WorldCom Inc. received about half of the $3.4 million it billed Accutel. Accutel filed for bankruptcy protection in 2001. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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