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The man who once led Enron Corp.’s high-speed Internet unit pleaded guilty Friday to securities fraud and agreed to help federal prosecutors on other cases related to the energy giant’s collapse. Kenneth Rice, 45, faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for the single fraud count. The plea deal also requires him to forfeit $13.7 million in cash and property, including jewelry and a pair of exotic sports cars. Rice was charged in 2003 with selling 1.2 million shares of Enron stock for more than $76 million while he knew Enron Broadband Services was failing. The more than 40 counts against him had included fraud and conspiracy for participating in a scheme to tout Enron’s broadband network as having capabilities it didn’t have, impressing analysts and inflating the company’s stock. The Justice Department said the unit never made a dime, and it was abandoned shortly after Enron’s historic bankruptcy in December 2001. Rice is one of 30 people charged in the government’s 2 1/2-year investigation into the Enron collapse, including company founder and former chairman Kenneth Lay and former CEO Jeffrey Skilling, once a major broadband cheerleader. Rice quit the company in 2001, months before Enron went bankrupt, prosecutors said. The six others charged in the broadband indictment — including Joseph Hirko, the unit’s former co-CEO — have all pleaded innocent and are set for trial in October. Rice’s lawyers, Dan Cogdell and Bill Dolan, declined to comment Friday, as did Ron Woods, a Skilling attorney who attended Friday’s plea hearing. Rice’s sentencing was set for Jan. 31. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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