Updated: Former Pittsburgh police chief indicted
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Former Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges he failed to properly file his federal taxes in the years 2008 through 2011 and conspired to steal from an agency receiving federal funds.
U.S. Attorney David Hickton, FBI and Internal Revenue Service officials called a news conference for Friday afternoon to detail the charges contained in the indictment. The charges became known, even though the document was not immediately filed with the court, because a federal magistrate read out the counts against the 60-year-old former chief when he certified the document in open court.
Harper resigned under pressure on Feb. 20 after Mayor Luke Ravenstahl met with the FBI about the investigation, though neither Ravenstahl nor Harper have said what the investigation entails.
The FBI, IRS and federal prosecutors have not confirmed the probe; however, they have in recent weeks seized police financial records pertaining to fees the city collects when its officers are hired out to work off-duty security details.
Harper resigned a week after the FBI gathered those records, and just days after City Controller Michael Lamb announced an audit of the force’s special events office.
Harper has denied any wrongdoing. Efforts by The Associated Press to reach him by phone and email were not immediately successful.
Based on record seized by federal agents, the investigation appears to center on how the city accounted for and spent a $3.85-per-hour administrative fee it charges bars and other businesses that hire off-duty city officers to provide security details. The fee generated about $800,000 for the city last year alone, and the FBI has seized records from a police credit union through which at least some of that money was kept and paid out, including to cover some expenses for Ravenstahl’s police bodyguards.
Ravenstahl has denied wrongdoing and said he’s been told by investigators that he’s not targeted by the investigation but is cooperating in it.
Before Harper’s resignation, the mayor ordered a review of the police bureau on Feb. 8 after learning that Harper partnered with four subordinates to form a private security firm.
An attorney representing Commander Eric Holmes, one of those involved in the security firm, announced earlier this month that the company was disbanding.
That attorney, Patrick Thomassey, said then that none of the work done by the fledgling company “involved public time. It was all on their own time,” he said.
Harper has previously said the company, Diversified Public Safety Consultants, was never operational, but was instead set up as something Harper said he would work on when he retired.
Despite the chief’s claim that the security company was dormant, Thomassey said Diversified Public Safety Consultants generated $5,600 last year from three customers, including the city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority, which runs the city’s professional sports stadiums and convention center.
Ravenstahl announced March 1 that he won’t run for re-election. The city, along with the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office, has begun taking a wide-ranging look at officers’ secondary employment, including Harper’s consulting business.
Meanwhile, the district attorney’s office has issued cease-and-desist letters to four other security or law-enforcement firms owned by city police officers until it can be determined whether the officers need private detective licenses to operate them.
Finally, the City Council is considering a measure to formalize the $3.85 hourly fee that the city charges for off-duty service details. The city law department is reviewing whether council ever formally passed legislation allowing the fee to be collected, though it is nonetheless included in the police bureau’s policies.
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