White-Collar Wives: What It's Like to Lose It All

Women talk about crushing social and economic impact of hubbys' fall from grace.

ByABC News
November 26, 2009, 11:18 AM

Nov. 30, 2009 — -- Each week Leslie Scrushy makes a two-hour drive with her kids to see her husband, Richard, in a federal prison in Beaumont, Texas. "It's a scary place," she said. "But thousands of wives and girlfriends and friends make this journey all over the country every week. So I'm not alone in doing this."

The couple was once the toast of Birmingham, Ala., with a fortune of some $300 million.

That was until Richard Scrushy was found liable in a civil suit for $2.8 billion in one of the priciest judgments in the history of corporate scandals. Scrushy was acquitted of criminal charges in that case, but in a separate case, was convicted of bribery, conspiracy and mail fraud, landing him a seven-year sentence in federal prison.

Watch the full story on "Nightline" Wednesday at 11:35 p.m. ET

Within months, Leslie Scrushy became one of those women you see in designer suits walking in and out of court on the arm of her disgraced husband. She is now a member of an exclusive, if not vaunted, club: the formerly rich wives of husbands busted for white-collar crimes.

Leslie Scrushy said the family was working through the crisis.

"We just make the best of it," she said. "[The kids are] not sad, they're not depressed to be going to prison -- they're excited to be going to see their dad."

In his first interview from prison, Richard Scrushy spoke to "Nightline" about the sacrifices his family is making. We spoke by phone, because the prison would not permit our cameras in.

"Sometimes I wonder if the judges realize that they punish the families many times more than they punish the inmate," Scrushy said. "You're in a horrible situation in here, and the other thing people don't realize, we only have 10 minutes a day to talk to our family. I mean, it averages -- we have 300 minutes a month. Every second is precious. Every second, every minute is precious and when you get a child on the phone and you talk three-four minutes... Those little children I have raised -- you know, my little boy came in, he was in diapers. He was just 2 years old. And I've watched him-- now he's 5 years old."

Scrushy maintains his innocence.

"So imagine sitting in a prison for 29 months knowing that you've done nothing wrong, you should not be here," he said. "It's been extremely difficult. I've had some really good friends that I've made in here over time, people that are in here as well. ... Their being here is questionable, probably shouldn't be here and I don't know. It's a tough situation but we get through. I'm in here with a lot of other men that have a lot of the same struggles that I have."