Pittsburgh, PA – Former city Police Chief Nate Harper, a 36-year force veteran, is scheduled to plead guilty in the case against him. Harper was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges he failed to properly file federal taxes and conspired to steal police funds.
The criminal investigation against Harper stemmed from another prior federal investigation in which a former city employee pled guilty to accepting bribes to help a business, owned by a former friend of Harper’s, land a $327,000 contract. The contract paid to have mobile computers and two-way radios installed in squad cars using an alleged shell company called Alpha Outfitters.
When asked, Harper initially denied financially benefiting from the contract. But as investigators probed deeper into Harper’s finances to see if he had any unexplained income from the contract scheme, Harper caved and disclosed about the money stolen from the police fees fund.
US Attorney David Hickton referred to Harper’s actions as the “worst kind of public corruption.”
The indictment against the 60-year-old, as well as unnamed others, stated they conspired to divert more than $70,000 from a city account to at least two other unauthorized credit union accounts. Harper then spent nearly $32,000 of the criminally seized funds on meals at high end restaurants and other personal purchases.
The funds in question were amassed from $3.85 hourly fees businesses, such as bars and restaurants, paid the city when they hired off duty officers to work security details in their establishments. The money, by law, has to be kept in city-controlled accounts and spent only on certain types of police business. The fee generated about $800,000 for the city last year.
Harper was accused of failing to file his tax returns to hide the money, but claimed he simply procrastinated. As for the penalties related to the taxes, Harper will face four counts of willfully failing to file income tax returns from the years 2008 through 2011.
Back on February 20, after meeting with FBI investigators, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl demanded Harper’s resignation.
The video details the emergence of the case as investigations began on the shell company fraud.
Federal crimes carry a maximum combined penalty of at least nine years in prison, but Harper will likely be sentenced to 10 to 16 months, based on the assessment of his attorneys. If that is the case, Harper’s attorneys will aim to have the forecasted sentence commuted to probation or alternative incarceration like house arrest.
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