Enron Corp.'s former chief accounting officer figures to be the government's star witness after pleading guilty to securities fraud and agreeing to testify against Enron founder Ken Lay and former chief executive Jeffrey Skilling.

Richard Causey, 45, will serve seven years in prison and forfeit $1.25 million to the government. His sentence can be reduced to five years if the government is happy with his cooperation. Causey had faced 36 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, security fraud, insider trading, money laundering and making false statements on financial reports.

All three men were scheduled to go to trial on Jan. 17 and had pleaded not guilty to charges related to the company's 2001 bankruptcy.

Causey was responsible for the company's public accounting statements, reported directly to Skilling for years and took part in conference calls with Lay in the fall of 2001. Unlike former Enron finance chief Andrew Fastow, who already struck a deal with the government and will testify, Causey did not directly profit from any of Enron's alleged side deals and suspect accounting practices.

Lay, Skilling and Causey had a joint defense agreement, meaning they agreed to share information for trial. A lawyer for Skilling has already said he will ask the court to delay the trial for up to two months. Lay faces 11 criminal counts, while Skilling faces 35 counts.Fifteen other former Enron executives have pleaded guilty to various crimes, including securities fraud and insider trading.

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