The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

December 6, 2006

Waseca set to welcome infamous inmate

Convicted Enron exec causing buzz in community

WASECA — A new resident scheduled to arrive in Waseca Tuesday has brought national attention to the town, prompting more than a few citizens to mess with the city’s slogan.

The phrase “For an hour . . . for a lifetime” has been tweaked to add, in one variation or another, “. . . maybe 24 years of confinement.” The new twists are making light of the federal prison sentence Jeff Skilling, former Enron chief executive officer, has been ordered to serve at the Federal Correctional Institution, Waseca.

Skilling was one of the masterminds behind a complicated scam that manipulated the energy company’s financial statements, which eventually led to Enron’s collapse in 2002. It was a conspiracy that cost thousands of employees their jobs and, in many cases, money they’d invested with the Houston-based company for retirement.

Those people are eager to see justice served, Waseca Mayor Roy Srp said while explaining the interest Texas media are suddenly showing in the city of about 9,500 people.

“There’s a lot of people in Texas looking forward to the door closing behind Skilling and seeing him pay his debt to society,” Srp said. “He is the highest profile inmate we’ve had, as far as I know.

“I like the idea of Waseca being on the map.”

Federal Bureau of Prisons officials won’t confirm that Waseca will be Skilling’s new home, but a federal judge has ordered Skilling to report to the low security prison by 2 p.m. Tuesday. Officials at the Waseca facility are denying any media access to the prison until 2007.

The fenced facility in the southwest corner of Waseca hasn’t drawn much attention since it was converted from a college campus into a federal correctional institution in the middle 1990s.

Srp was a rookie on the Waseca City Council when the University of Minnesota announced it was closing its Waseca campus in 1990, he said. Citizens had mixed feelings when it was announced that the prison was going to fill the empty space a few years later.

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