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Ohio ex-fugitive exec tells judge she’s innocent

December 24, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A woman who fled to Mexico after being convicted in a $1.9 billion corporate fraud told a federal judge Thursday that she may have made mistakes in her life but never broke any laws and is innocent of her crimes.

U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley reminded Rebecca Parrett that she broke at least one law — fleeing the country instead of appearing for her sentencing more than two years ago. Parrett agreed on that point with Marbley, who then ordered her to begin serving the 25-year sentence she received in absentia last year.

“You gave your word that you would do all that was required of you,” Marbley told Parrett as she stood shackled before him in a federal courtroom in Columbus. “You fled in a display of utter disregard for the justice system.”

Parrett, 62, disappeared in March 2008 after she was convicted of securities fraud, wire fraud and other charges in a scheme at health care financing company National Century Financial Enterprises.

Prosecutors likened the $1.9 billion fraud case to the Enron and WorldCom scandals.

Parrett, of Carefree, Ariz., told Marbley she was ill and depressed after her conviction and that she went to Mexico intending to die there.

“I felt like my body went into a black hole. I did not feel like living anymore,” she said. “My first thought was not to escape, but to die.”

Parrett also insisted she was innocent of the scheme that prosecutors said bankrupted hundreds of health care providers and cost investors in National Century billions.

“I may have made some mistakes and bad decisions in my life, but I did not break the laws of this country,” Parrett said.

Marbley told Parrett that events after she went to Mexico did not support her comments, pointing out that her husband took some of a $100,000 payment she left him to make “cash drops” to her in Mexico.

“You changed your mind somewhere between Arizona and Mexico about your plans to die, because it sounds like someone who planned to live a long and prosperous life in Mexico,” Marbley said.

Parrett told Marbley her decision to die changed after a doctor in Mexico helped her recover from her illnesses.

Marbley also scolded Parrett for involving her sister in the scheme. In July, Marbley sentenced Linda Case to six months in prison for lying to federal investigators searching for Parrett. Investigators said Linda Case had been communicating with Parrett by e-mail, but several times told deputy U.S. marshals she did not know where Parrett was and had not been in contact with her. They also said Case was arrested days before she had planned to leave for Mexico to be with Parrett.

Parrett was arrested October in a Mexican resort town where the government said she often went out dancing and consulted an anti-aging specialist. Parrett was using a false name and telling others in Ajijic she fled the United States after testifying against lawyers who stole from pension funds, according to the government.

After the hearing, Parrett’s son read a statement from his mother in which she said she was suffering from stress and illness during the trial and before her sentencing, including pneumonia, an autoimmune disorder and blackouts.

Robert Parrett, 43, of Columbus, said he believed his mother was innocent.

“I’m hopeful that in the future some things come to the surface that maybe the general public can understand a little bit more as well,” he said. “I think a lot of the information was withheld from the public initially.”

Parrett, 43, of Columbus would not give details. Fred Alverson, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said no information was withheld.

Robert Parrett said his mother’s ordeal has been hard on him and his family.

“It’s just been a living hell and a nightmare, day by day, just trying to get through,” he said. “My children and my family suffered greatly over this.”

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