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US brings civil suit against Lay estate seeking $12.7 million in assets

[JURIST] The US government has filed a civil lawsuit against the estate of former Enron chairman Ken Lay [defense website; Houston Chronicle profile], seeking $12.7 million. The Justice Department brought suit Monday "to recover property that constitutes proceeds of the fraud proven in the criminal case." Last week, a federal judge vacated [JURIST report; text, PDF] Lay's convictions on fraud and conspiracy charges [indictment, PDF] because Lay died suddenly [JURIST report] of a heart attack in July. Citing "abatement," Lay's lawyers requested that the conviction be vacated [JURIST report] because the former Enron executive died while his appeal was pending.

The judge's decision meant the government could not seize Lay's assets unless it filed a civil suit. The assets being sought by the government include a $2.5 million condo and $10.2 million controlled by an investment firm. Michael Ramsey, Lay's criminal trial attorney, told the Houston Chronicle that only victims of the Enron scandal should be able to sue and that the government's lawsuit "is an attack, apparently, on his widow and children."

On Monday, Jeffrey Skilling [Houston Chronicle profile], Lay's co-defendant, was sentenced to 24 years in prison. The Houston Chronicle has more.

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