Ex-AOL worker faces jail for stock swindle

A call centre worker caught exercising the stock options of another AOL employee could go to prison for five years and pay a large fine

A former America Online call centre worker pleaded guilty this week to exercising the stock options of another employee and diverting tens of thousands of dollars to himself. Jacksonville, Florida, resident Christopher O. Wright, 27, faces up to five years in prison and fines of $250,000 (£160,000) after pleading guilty in a US federal court in Alexandria, Virginia to one count of wire fraud. He also faces the prospect of having to pay back the more than $86,000 he netted from the transaction, the office of the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia said.

Prosecutors said Wright, who worked as a member services representative at an AOL call centre in Jacksonville, mistakenly received an E*Trade activation account form for an employee with a name similar to his. At the time, Wright had just 200 options to purchase AOL stock while his colleague had thousands. Instead of pointing out the mistake, prosecutors said Wright filled out the form and exercised and sold more than $86,000 worth of stock in October 2001, channelling the cash to his own bank. He was arrested in July.

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