December 28, 2005

Ex-Qwest executive pleads guilty to wire fraud

By Robert Boczkiewicz

DENVER (Reuters) - A former top executive of Qwest
Communications International Inc on Wednesday pleaded guilty to
wire fraud, avoiding a five-week trial that had been set to
start on Tuesday.

Former Qwest executive vice president Marc Weisberg, 48, is
among seven former Qwest executives charged criminally since
2003 as part of a three-year probe by federal prosecutors in
Denver, which led to the indictment last week of Qwest chief
executive Joseph Nacchio for insider trading.

Weisberg entered his plea in U.S. District Court as part of
a plea bargain in which he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors
and may serve as a witness in the case involving his former
boss, Nacchio, who pleaded innocent. Nacchio is the only former
Qwest executive remaining to go on trial.

U.S. Attorney Bill Leone declined to comment on whether
Weisberg was helping prosecutors in their case against Nacchio.

But former state prosecutor and legal analyst Craig
Silverman said he believed Weisberg may be helpful.

"(He) may have been in a position to know a lot of
important things about how the higher-ups operated at Qwest,"
he said.

Weisberg, who is to be sentenced March 3, faces a maximum
of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but prosecutors
agreed to recommend he serve no prison time in exchange for his

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors recommended that
Weisberg serve 60 days in home detention and pay a $250,000

U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn told Weisberg in
Wednesday's court proceeding that he will be able to withdraw
his plea if the judge does not accept the penalty

Blackburn asked Weisberg if he did the things the plea
agreement described as his crime.

"I did, your honor," Weisberg replied.

A February 17 indictment of Weisberg accused him of abusing
his position by obtaining investment opportunities in
technology companies for himself at the peak of the boom in
those stocks starting in 1999.

Weisberg oversaw corporate investments for Qwest.

He allegedly took shares in Qwest vendor companies offered
before their initial public offerings at the expense of Qwest
and its shareholders and without the companies' knowledge.

He made personal profits of nearly $3 million, prosecutors

He pleaded guilty to one of 12 counts in the indictment and
prosecutors agreed to drop the remaining 11 counts.

Weisberg had no comment as he hurried past reporters in a
courthouse corridor. One of his attorneys said a statement
might be issued Wednesday afternoon.