Last day of freedom for ex-telecom titan

Former WorldCom Corp. chief Bernard Ebbers is to report to prison on Tuesday, but federal officials won't say where he'll serve his 25-year sentence.

A federal judge has recommended that Ebbers serve time on fraud and conspiracy charges at a facility in central Mississippi, but there is no guarantee that's where he'll end up.

Ebbers, 65, was sentenced last July for his role in the $11 billion accounting fraud that toppled WorldCom. The former high school basketball coach had taken a small telecommunications firm and transformed it into an industry giant before the Clinton-based WorldCom collapsed in bankruptcy in 2002.

"My overall sense of it is it's just a sad day," said Clinton Mayor Rosemary Aultman, whose city dealt with the economic fallout of the scandal. "The collapse of WorldCom was a tragic ending to what had been a fabulous story. So I think the overwhelming emotion continues to be great sadness and disappointment."

Mike Truman, a U.S. Bureau of Prisons spokesman in Washington, said the location where Ebbers is to be imprisoned would remain secret until he is admitted.

Truman said regulations would allow Ebbers to report to prison as early as Monday, but he could not recall anyone showing up a day early to begin serving a prison sentence. He would not say where or when Ebbers would surrender to authorities.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones of New York told Ebbers during a sentencing hearing last year that she would recommend that federal prison officials assign him to the Yazoo City Federal Correctional Facility in Mississippi,  about 50 miles northwest of Jackson, to make it easier for his family to visit him.

But even a judge's recommendation is no sure thing.

"It's a decision of the (prison) bureau," Truman said.