Thursday, February 7, 2008

five executives and two others who will be tried later, including CEO Lance Poulsen, masterminded a $3 billion fraud

Running behind schedule, jury selection in the criminal trial of five executives of the failed National Century Financial Enterprises Inc. was completed late Wednesday with lawyers' opening arguments scheduled to begin Thursday morning in U.S. District Court in Columbus.

Throughout the afternoon, the third day in which attorneys worked to pick jurors, defense lawyers attempted to divine how fair and impartial jurors could be in light of their experiences with large corporations, the health care industry or their impressions of government witnesses.

Attorneys winnowed more than 250 prospects to 12 jurors with four alternates by the end of Wednesday. An extraordinarily large number of candidates were called because the trial is expected to be complex and last at least two months.

The government is alleging the five executives and two others who will be tried later, including CEO Lance Poulsen, masterminded a $3 billion fraud through their business of buying accounts receivables from health-care providers at a discount and packaging the accounts as bond funds, which were sold to raise money to buy more accounts. The government has accused the executives of diverting $2.84 billion for their benefit.

The Dublin company collapsed into bankruptcy in 2002. The executives were later indicted on conspriacy, securities, fraud and money laundering charges. Poulsen also faces claims that he tried to bribe a government witness.

Toward the end of jury selection, defense attorneys began to offer some insight into their clients' defense claims.

Javier Armengau, attorney for Roger Faulkenberry, 46, former director of securitizations at National Century, asked jury candidates if they thought it was reliable to rely on the advice or direction of their immediate supervisor or corporate counsel when making decisions.

Meanwhile, Leonard Yelsky, the lawyer for ex-Vice President James Dierker, 39, brought up infamous government mob informants and asked jury prospects to consider during trial whether informants in the case are telling the truth "after finding Jesus" or are attempting to lessen any criminal sentence they may face.

The government has indicated in court documents that it plans to call four National Century employees as witnesses to testify against the executives, including Vice Chairwoman Rebecca Parrett, 58; Chief Operating Officer Donald Ayers, 70; and Chief Financial Officer Randolph Speer, 57.

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