Prosecutor: Federal investigation of Pittsburgh government 'ongoing'

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A federal investigation of city of Pittsburgh government dealings continues, U.S. attorney David J. Hickton said Thursday, declining to detail the probe that has flown below the radar for months.

“We have acknowledged that we are doing an investigation of the city of Pittsburgh that has arisen as a result of investigations of” the Bureau of Police and former police Chief Nate Harper, who was indicted and pleaded guilty, Mr. Hickton said. “I am acknowledging that it is ongoing.”

Mr. Hickton declined to say how long the investigation might last. He also stopped short of pledging to make any announcement should the investigation end without the filing of further charges. He has, in three past instances, announced decisions not to file charges in high-profile matters, but the Department of Justice doesn’t mandate such public statements.

Wednesday the grand jury investigating the city met but heard testimony and handed down indictments on other matters. Neither the prosecutors handling the city investigation nor any city-related witnesses were seen entering the grand jury suite, and the panel does not appear to be meeting again this week.

From May through October, former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s senior secretary, his chief of staff, two female acquaintances, three sometime-members of his security detail and the police bureau’s acting chief, Regina McDonald, and deputy chief appeared before the grand jury. Mr. Ravenstahl’s attorney could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Since October, the grand jury has met twice but there has been no indication that it heard new testimony related to the city government. Federal grand juries typically run for 18 months.

A prior grand jury handed down two city-related indictments before expiring in March.

Mr. Harper, 60, faces a Feb. 25 sentencing on charges that he conspired to commit theft by depositing checks meant for the city into an unauthorized account, then spending some of the funds on personal expenses.

Robinson entrepreneur Art Bedway, 64, is to be sentenced Tuesday for conspiracy, bribery and mail fraud in relation to a city contract granted to Esplen-based Alpha Outfitters, which he controlled. He has confirmed that he paid $15,000 in bribes. The firm got $327,729 to install and service radios and computers in police cruisers.

Former city systems analyst Christine Kebr, 56, of Castle Shannon, who was charged without an indictment, is set to be sentenced Feb. 11 for conspiracy in the Alpha Outfitters matter.

Rich Lord: or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord. First Published January 9, 2014 11:52 AM

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