Wyatt gets year for oil for food violation
Houston oilman Oscar Wyatt was sentenced today to 12 months and a day in prison on a criminal charge stemming from illicit payments to Saddam Hussein's regime under the United Nations Oil-for-Food program.Some believe that Wyatt has always "skirted too close to the law." Ne is notorious for reneging on contracts to supply natural gas to Texas cities back in the 70s during the first energy shortages. It resulted in a case that took years and reams of testimony before the Texas Railroad Commission. He has also been a generous contributor to Democrats and a few Republicans.
He pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin had been flooded with letters from supporters of the 83-year-old oil legend asking for leniency, and the sentence is shorter than the 18-to-24 month range called for in federal sentencing guidelines.Wyatt can shave up to 55 days off his prison time for good behavior. The extra day on his sentence qualified him for that credit, Chin said. The judge recommended that Wyatt serve his time at a federal facility in Beaumont, but the final decision on that rests with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
Wyatt choked up as he addressed the court during an hour-long hearing in Manhattan, saying he loved the United States and never would do anything to hurt its interests. But his opinions about policy toward Iraq, he said, "caused me to skirt too close to the law. I was wrong and for that I am truly sorry."
Wyatt — the founder of Houston-based Coastal Corp., now owned by El Paso Corp., — was accused of funneling millions of dollars in kickbacks to Saddam's regime to purchase Iraqi oil under the Oil-for-Food program.