John Ashcroft said no one is above the law. The attorney general announced the indictment of former WorldCom chief executive Bernie Ebbers during a New York news conference.
Ashcroft said the American people are entitled to "swift, sure justice'' when crimes deceive the public.
Ebbers and WorldCom's former chief financial officer face the same securities fraud charges. The indictment accuses both Ebbers and Scott Sullivan of deceiving the public, federal regulators, securities analysts and others about WorldCom's true declining financial condition.
Sullivan pleaded guilty Tuesday and agreed to testify against Ebbers. Sullivan admitted to participating in a conspiracy to mislead investors and the government, but he says he did so to keep WorldCom afloat during financial difficulties. The fraud is now estimated at $11 billion.
Ebbers and business associates started Long Distance Discount Service (LDDS) two decades ago in Hattiesburg.
For the next 12 years, it snapped up communications companies, including IDB WorldCom, and in 1995 adopted the name WorldCom Incorporated, with Ebbers as chief executive.