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Fifty-four months later, Mr. Nacchio, 64 years old, who once ran Qwest Communications International Inc., has emerged physically unrecognizable from his pre-incarceration life.
Mr. Nacchio is among the first white-collar executives to be set free after a decade of aggressive crackdowns by federal investigators to rein in shenanigans at public companies. He remains as combative as ever, insisting he never committed a crime, while describing his experience in prison as something akin to "Lord of the Flies, for grown-ups."
A jury convicted Mr. Nacchio of selling $52 million of stock as Qwest's outlook was deteriorating when the telecom boom of the early 2000s was imploding. He paid a $19 million fine and after an appeal forfeited $44.6 million, though he says he is still well-off financially, and still owns several residences.
Mr. Nacchio spent most of his sentence in two Pennsylvania facilities called camps, the lowest level of security offered by the Bureau of Prisons.
Joseph Nacchio waves as he leaves the federal courthouse in Denver April 11, 2007. The former telecommunications executive was convicted on insider-trading charges.
There are no bars and no walls around the perimeter. Camp inmates can send emails.
But they are awakened in the night for security checks. Phone calls are limited to about 10 minutes a day. Visitors are allowed but only every other weekend and some holidays.
Prison experts and former inmates say conditions are less comfortable for white-collar criminals than they were in the 1980s, when media stories about leafy prison camps with sparkling athletic facilities surfaced during the savings-and-loan crisis. They say authorities took down tennis nets in at least one camp and cut off inmate access to golf courses and swimming pools.
A Bureau of Prisons spokesman said federal camps do not have pools and said the agency doesn't keep records of past amenities.
"There is no such thing as a Club Fed," said prison consultant Alan Ellis, who advises white-collar convicts about life in prison.
Mr. Nacchio's fellow inmates included former Galleon Group trader Zvi Goffer and his brother Emanuel Goffer, both serving time for an insider-trading scheme. Mr. Nacchio got to know both of them.
the two prison camps where Mr. Nacchio served, named
"Joe was right down to earth," said Spoonie, who asked that his real name not be used because of the stigma his drug-conspiracy conviction carries.
Spoonie, 45, said other white-collar offenders were "just all full of themselves," and stereotyped inmates such as himself and Juice, another drug offender, because of their tattoos and crimes.
"We are like best friends now," he said, adding that Mr. Nacchio's prison nickname was "Joe-ski-luv," because he's been married to the same woman for more than 30 years. "If he ever needs a lung or a bone, I'm there."
Some former Qwest employees and shareholders remain unmoved. Mr.
Nacchio made lots of enemies at Qwest when it took over regional
telecom company U.S. West, a tension-fueled process that made him
reviled among workers, some of whose retirement accounts were
drained during his tenure and when Qwest's stock took a dive.