June 20, 2005 -- This was the end of a sad, sad story that wasn't just about sports.
John Rigas, the founder of Adelphia Communications, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in a multi-billion dollar fraud that led to the collapse of one of the nation's largest cable companies. The company had been the owner of the Buffalo Sabres, with Rigas serving as the face of the franchise since the purchase of the team from the Knox Brothers and their partners. Son Timothy Rigas was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Rigas expressed regret to the stockholders who lost billions of dollars in the case.
"I wish there was a way to make it up to them," he said.
Despite Rigas' claims that he didn't do anything criminally wrong, U.S. District Court Judge Leonard B. Sand said, "The man I have to sentence is the man reflected in the evidence, a man who long ago sent Adelphia on a track of lying and cheating and defrauding. Regretfully for everyone, this was not stopped over 10 years ago but continued and got more brazen and culminated in one of the largest frauds in corporate history."
Federal prosecutors said the Rigases hid $2.3 billion in co-signed loans that Adelphia would be responsible to pay back while "looting" the company for their personal benefit.
Rigas had taken the hopes and dreams of better economic times for Buffalo, featuring a planned downtown office building, and crushed them. He'll never be forgiven by most for that.
--- Budd Bailey