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Third Ex-Charter Exec Pleads Guilty

James “Trey” Smith is the latest former Charter Communications Inc. executive to cut a deal with federal prosecutors, pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and agreeing to testify at the upcoming trial of one of his former colleagues.

The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine. Smith, formerly Charter’s Western-region senior vice president, is scheduled for sentencing in April.

Smith is the third Charter executive to plead guilty to fraud charges stemming from a 14-count indictment handed down in July 2003 involving an alleged scheme to defraud Charter investors by inflating subscriber numbers in 2001.

Also at that time, Smith and former Eastern-region senior VP David McCall were indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and eight counts of wire fraud. McCall pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in July. He was followed by former chief operating officer David Barford, who pleaded guilty to the same charge in December. Barford is scheduled to be sentenced in March.

“Three of the four defendants have now pleaded guilty,” U.S. Attorney James Martin said in a prepared statement. “These guilty pleas clearly establish the significant corporate fraud that was committed in this case. The clear message is: Corporate executives who cook the books will pay the price."

Like the other former executives who have reached deals with the government, Smith’s plea agreement requires that he testify for the government in the upcoming trial of former chief financial officer Kent Kalkwarf, scheduled for Feb. 7.

Charter spokesman David Andersen declined to comment on Smith’s plea agreement, noting that Smith resigned from the company in 2001 and adding that the plea will have no impact on the MSO’s operations.

Charter has fully cooperated with the government in its investigation, and neither the company, nor any of its current officers or directors, is a target of the inquiry.