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John J. Rigas (born November 14, 1924 in Wellsville, New York) is one of the founders of Adelphia Communications Corporation, which at its peak was one of the largest cable companies in the United States. He was also the majority owner of the Buffalo Sabres franchise of the National Hockey League. In 2005, he was convicted for multiple accounts of fraud and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

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Beginnings

Born in Wellsville, New York, to Greek immigrants James and Eleni Rigas who sought a better life in the U.S. for their children, John had three siblings: Gus, Mary and Katherine. His first job was, at the age of nine, busing tables. After graduating from Wellsville High School, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was placed in an armored infantry division in 1943 and he saw combat in France.[1]

After the war ended, he returned to life in Wellsville and soon afterward enrolled at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. He studied engineering and earned a bachelor of science degree in management engineering. He then returned to Wellsville, only to take a job with the Sylvania corporation in Emporium, Pennsylvania.

Business career

In 1951 Rigas started his first business venture by buying a movie theater in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, a town midway between Wellsville and Emporium. He borrowed the money from his family and friends, including his godfather, James Lucas, to purchase the theater and started operating it in the evenings while he worked days at the Sylvania plant.

The Rigas cable television enterprise first started in Coudersport when the family purchased the town's TV cable franchise. Always looking to grow his company, John had ambitious plans and teamed with his brother Gus to start Adelphia after buying out his partners. They borrowed heavily to buy more and more suburban cable companies and avoided city franchises. Eventually, Adelphia became the largest cable provider outside Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and South Florida and had systems reaching over 30 states and over 5.6 million customers. Adelphia also launched product lines such as high-speed cable Internet service and long-distance telephone service.

Rigas was honored numerous times, including honorary degrees by three universities.

Criminal Indictment

He was forced to resign from his position as CEO in May 2002 after being indicted for bank fraud, wire fraud, and securities fraud. Timothy J. Rigas and Michael J. Rigas, his sons, as well as James Brown and Michael Mulcahey were also charged with participation in these crimes. The executives are accused of looting the corporation by concealing $2.3 billion in liabilities from corporate investors and of using corporation funds as their personal funds.[2]

Rigas was convicted of the charges in the summer of 2004 and on June 27, 2005 was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. Adelphia Corporation was forced to file for bankruptcy after it acknowledged that the three Rigases had taken $3.1 billion in loans that were not recorded on the books.

In 2005 John Rigas and his son, Timothy Rigas were charged with tax evasion and pleaded not guilty in October 2005.

Following John Rigas's arrest, the NHL virtually stripped him of his control over the Sabres team. After a period in bankruptcy, the franchise was purchased by another multibillionaire from western New York, Tom Golisano.

On May 24, 2007 the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 2004 convictions of John and Timothy Rigas on 17 of the original 18 counts.

On June 27, 2007, John Rigas and his son, Timothy J. Rigas, were ordered to report to prison on August 13 for their fraud convictions.

On August 13, 2007, John and Timothy Rigas reported to the Federal Correctional Complex, Butner, located about 45 minutes northwest of Raleigh, North Carolina, unsuccessful in their request to be allowed to serve their time together at a facility close to their homes in Coudersport, Pa.

On November 1, 2007, after a 20-day bidding war involving 31 bidders, the palatial $30 million former Adelphia Headquarters building in Coudersport, PA was sold to an undisclosed buyer at auction for just $3.4 million.

On March 3, 2008, The Supreme Court rejected the final appeal without comment. The case was Rigas v. U.S., 07-494. John Rigas' original release date was 09-04-2020, but a federal judge reduced his sentence by three years, and his new release date is 01-23-2018. He will be 92 years old upon his release. [1]

Rigas applied for a Presidential pardon in January 2009 but George W. Bush left office without making a decision on Rigas' pardon request. [2]

References








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