The founding family of US cable operator Adelphia Communications was withdrawing cash from the company for personal purposes over a decade ago, a court heard this week.

LeMoyne Zacherl, former vice president of financial operations and administration at the firm, testified that he warned members of the Rigas clan about the practices during his spell at the company between 1993 and 1995.

John Rigas (founder and ex-chairman of Adelphia), his sons Timothy and Michael, and one-time executive Michael Mulcahey stand accused of using the public company as a "personal piggybank".

The former finance chief testified that within days of arriving at the company in November 1993, he had unearthed payments from Adelphia to cover the Rigases' personal expenses. These handouts -- which included cash for personal trainers, piano tuning and limousines -- were allegedly made without board approval or disclosure to shareholders.

As a result, Zacherl recommended a series of internal controls and instructed the elder Rigas to stop wiring himself company cash. But the Adelphia founder, continued the accountant, discovered an indirect route to obtain the firm's money: he arranged for funds to be transferred to a company called Empire Sports Network, which passed them on to him or his firm Rigas Communications International.

The events recounted by Zacherl are too early to relate directly to the prosecution's case, which is based on transactions between 1999 and 2002. However, Judge Leonard Sand allowed prosecutors to use the testimony to show a background of financial mismanagement.

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff