The US justice system beat its chest on Monday, sentencing John Rigas, the miscreant former chairman of Adelphia Communications, to fifteen years jail for his part in looting the stricken cable TV company and for lying to investors.

The sentence passed by Judge Leonard Sand is draconian compared with past convictions for corporate fraud. The more so since Rigas is eighty years of age and unlikely to end his days a free man. Some observers see the sentence as a signal of zero-tolerance from the US financial establishment.

Comments former federal prosecutor Robert Mintz: "It's a very severe sentence that will likely amount to a life sentence for the defendant. The judge is sending a message in the strongest possible terms that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated."

Judge Sand extended even less mercy to Rigas' son Timothy, Adelphia's former chief financial officer, handing down a twenty years rap. Both men will have to serve at least 85% of their sentences, imposed for siphoning $50 million (€41m; £27m) from the company.

The actions of the two Rigases and other defendants brought about the collapse of the company three years ago. Time Warner Cable and Comcast picked-up the remnants earlier this year for $17.6bn [WAMN: 22-Apr-05].

Rigas senior told the Judge Sand: "If I did anything wrong, I apologise."

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff