Three former El Paso Corp. natural gas traders convicted last year of conspiracy, as well as some charges of wire fraud and false price reporting in an attempt to influence published price indexes at the beginning of the decade, received lengthy prison sentences in Houston Thursday.

Former traders James Brooks, Wesley Walton and Pat Phillips were charged with submitting or directing colleagues to submit false trade information to publications Inside FERC’s Gas Market Report and Natural Gas Intelligence from about April 2000 to about May 2002. They each faced one count of conspiracy, 24 counts of false reporting and 24 counts of wire fraud.

Brooks was sentenced Thursday to 14 years while Walton and Phillips, who worked for Brooks, each received terms of 11 years and three months.

During last year’s trial in U.S. District Court in Houston, prosecutors contended that Brooks ordered the false reporting, Walton directed it and Phillips and other traders carried it out. After deliberating for two and a half days, jurors found Brooks guilty of 45 counts; Walton was found guilty of 23 counts, and Phillips was found guilty of 21 counts (see Daily GPI, Feb. 11, 2008).

In a similar case from the same period, former Dynegy Inc. gas trader Michelle Valencia was sentenced to 57 months in prison and former El Paso trader Greg Singleton was sentenced to 28 months. The two were tried together in Houston (see Daily GPI, Aug. 22, 2008).

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