Former AOL chief pleads guilty to fraud charges

America Online’s former chief of human resources pleaded guilty to fraud on Thursday for profiting from a sham consulting contract, and court documents allege he ran similar schemes at two other companies.

Prosecutors estimated that Gregory Horton (38) defrauded AOL of $100 000, AutoNation of $1,8-million and Qwest Communications of $333 000.

Horton had the authority at all three companies to approve contracts outright or to influence the hiring of consultants. Court records show he structured deals so that contractors paid companies in which Horton had a controlling interest and he hired consultants solely to funnel money to himself.

Horton could receive 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on April 22. He also could be fined $250 000 and ordered to pay restitution.

AOL fired Horton in 2003 and filed a lawsuit against him.

Horton’s attorney, Judith Wheat, did not immediately respond to phone calls seeking comment.

The conviction against Horton is unrelated to stock fraud charges against two former AOL employees for their dealings with a defunct Las Vegas technology company.
- Sapa-AP

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