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Former Qwest Communications executive Marc Weisberg pleaded guilty Wednesday to wire fraud and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors trying to convict other company officials of wrongdoing, including former Chief Executive Joseph Nacchio. Weisberg, a former senior vice president who oversaw investments, mergers and acquisitions for Denver-based Qwest Communications International Inc., pleaded guilty to a single count of fraud. He had faced eight counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering. Prosecutors declined comment through U.S. Attorney’s spokesman Jeff Dorschner. Weisberg’s attorneys did not immediately return calls. He faces a March 3 sentencing hearing. Prosecutors said Weisberg, 48, improperly earned $2.9 million for himself, family members and friends from 1999 to 2001 by demanding that vendors offer them shares in other companies in return for doing business with Qwest, the telephone provider for 14 mostly Western states. In a plea agreement filed with a federal judge, prosecutors said they would ask for 60 days of in-home detention, two years of probation and a $250,000 fine against Weisberg. He had faced decades in prison and huge fines if convicted of the original charges. Prosecutors have said Weisberg’s case was not directly connected to the accounting scandal that forced Qwest to restate billions in revenue. His plea came just a week after Nacchio pleaded not guilty to 42 counts of insider trading. Prosecutors have already lined up former Chief Financial Officer Robin Szeliga as a potential witness in future cases. She pleaded guilty in July to one count of insider trading and agreed to cooperate with investigators. In addition, former Qwest President Afshin Mohebbi has been granted immunity and is expected to testify. The charges against Nacchio and the deal with Weisberg come three years after the government announced the first indictments in the Qwest investigation and cited them as an example of the crackdown on white-collar crime. Nacchio is accused of illegally selling off $101 million in stock over five months in 2001 after learning the company might not meet its financial goals and keeping that information from stockholders. Prosecutors have refused to discuss who allegedly warned Nacchio about revenue problems at Qwest. The government has said Qwest and some of its former executives participated in a massive fraud between April 1999 and March 2002 by falsely reporting one-time sales or trades of capacity on its fiber-optic cables as recurring revenue. The fraud allowed Qwest to improperly book approximately $3 billion in revenue that eased its 2000 merger with U S West Inc. and helped various executives to reap millions in “ill-gotten” profits, the government has said. Qwest later restated earnings from 2000 and 2001 to erase about $2.2 billion in revenue. Last month, Qwest said it would pay $400 million to settle the claims of tens of thousands of shareholders who purchased Qwest securities. The company earlier agreed to pay $250 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission charges of fraud without admitting wrongdoing. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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