Post-Gazette.com

Ex-coroner's office worker pleads guilty, to cooperate

January 4, 2007 12:00 AM
By Paula Reed Ward Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The former chief histologist in the Allegheny County coroner's office pleaded guilty yesterday to three federal charges and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

George Hollis, 60, originally was indicted on nine counts, but the remaining six will be dismissed at sentencing.

Mr. Hollis pleaded guilty to theft from an organization that receives federal funds, failure to file a tax return and making false statements.

He also agreed to "provide truthful assistance to the United States," presumably in the upcoming trial of his former boss, Dr. Cyril H. Wecht.

Mr. Hollis was indicted, along with Dr. Wecht, the former county coroner, last year. Dr. Wecht, a forensic pathologist, is charged with 84 counts that accuse him of using his public office for private gain. His trial has been put on hold while the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decides whether the judge in the case should be replaced.

Mr. Hollis, who prepared tissue slides in the office, was employed there until early 2005. During his public employment, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen S. Stallings, Mr. Hollis also did work for Dr. Wecht's private firm, Cyril H. Wecht and Pathology Associates Inc.

During the plea hearing yesterday, Mr. Stallings told U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab that Mr. Hollis spent a "significant and substantial" part of his county work week doing private work.

The amount of lost public time attributable to Mr. Hollis' theft charge is $51,146, Mr. Stallings said. The loss from his failure to pay taxes was $12,182, he added.

The charge for making a false statement stemmed from an interview with the FBI in April 2005 in which Mr. Hollis said he only worked for Dr. Wecht's private business on weekends, Mr. Stallings said.