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Bernard Ebbers

The real story of WorldCom begins and ends in small-town Mississippi, where in little more than a decade a gym teacher named Bernie Ebbers took a tiny company and turned it into a telecom empire.

'A lot of people got hurt', said Bernie. "When you put your life into something like that and something like that happens, there's really not a lot to say except it's just terribly sad," Ebbers says. "A lot of people got hurt in the thing. It didn't have to happen."

Today, Ebbers is fighting charges in Oklahoma that he violated the state's securities laws by defrauding investors, among other things. Federal authorities haven't charged him. His attorney says Ebbers committed no crimes.