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Former National Century Executives Arraigned

Former officers of National Century Financial Enterprises of Dublin today entered not guilty pleas to federal charges of defrauding investors of more than $3 billion. The company was once the nation's leading lender to health care providers. Seven former executives are accused of lying to investors and conspiring to conceal cash shortages.

The defendants and their attorneys - 17 people in all - stood before U.S. district judge Algenon Marbley, arraigned on charges that include conspiracy, securities fraud, money laundering, mail and wire fraud. U.S. attorney Dale Williams read through the list of charges that total 47 counts against company founder Lance Poulsen; 36 against co-founder Rebecca Parrett; and fewer charges against the others.

Judge Marbley asked the defendants one by one to enter a plea, and without exception each answered not guilty, though none more authoritatively than former company head Poulsen.

Poulsen and Parrett founded National Century Financial Enterprises in the early 1990s. The company bought bills from health care providers who were awaiting insurance reimbursements. NCFE financed the purchases by selling securities to investors. The company's collapse allegedly cost those investors more than $3 billion. It also reportedly caused the bankruptcy of hundreds of businesses that were National Century clients.

Most of the defendants and their lawyers hurried past reporters outside the federal courthouse this morning. But an attorney for Rebecca Parrett, Roger Synenberg, says his client is innocent.

"We're looking forward to defending the charges," Synenberg said. "Ms. Parrett is innocent of the charges that have been brought and we look forward to a jury hearing them. We look forward to presenting our case."

The judge delayed setting a trial date after the defendants waived their right to a speedy trial. The government has been investigating National Century for four years and Judge Marbley, acknowledging the complexity of the issues, said an early trial date was virtually impossible.

Several of the counts each carry fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars and prison terms that range to a maximum of 20 years.