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Ex-AOL worker faces jail for stock fraud

A former America Online call center employee pleads guilty to exercising the stock options of another employee and diverting tens of thousands of dollars to himself.

    A former America Online call center worker pleaded guilty Monday to exercising the stock options of another employee and diverting tens of thousands of dollars to himself.

    Jacksonville, Fla., resident Christopher O. Wright, 27, faces up to five years in prison and fines of $250,000 after pleading guilty in federal court in Alexandria, Va., to one count of wire fraud. He also faces the prospect of having to pay back the more than $86,000 he netted from the transaction, the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia said.

    Prosecutors said Wright, who worked as a member services representative at an AOL call center in Jacksonville, mistakenly received an E*Trade activation account form for an employee with a name similar to his.

    At the time, Wright had just 200 options to purchase AOL stock while his colleague had thousands. Instead of pointing out the mistake, prosecutors said Wright filled out the form and exercised and sold more than $86,000 worth of stock in October 2001, channeling the cash to his own bank. He was arrested in July.

    Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 20. Wright's attorney, a public defender, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.