Former HealthSouth finance chief William Owens received the stiffest sentence yet, five years in prison, in the government's fraud case against executives involved in the $2.7 billion accounting scandal at the health care company.

Owens was a key witness in the criminal case brought against company founder and ex-chief executive Richard Scrushy. Scrushy was acquitted in late June on all of the three dozen counts he faced in connection with the scandal, though he still faces civil charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission. He was one of two HealthSouth executives who tipped off federal authorities to the fraud in 2003, and then helped authorities by wearing a recording device to tape conversations with Scrushy.

Owens, the last of the five former chief financial officers to be sentenced after pleading guilty to accounting fraud (nearly a dozen executives from the company have faced charges). Weston Smith, another former chief financial officer, was sentenced to 27 months in prison and ordered to forfeit $1.5 million, and will serve one year of probation after his release. Three other former finance chiefs, all sentenced by other judges, received little if any jail time.

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