Indiana man pleads guilty to embezzling $9 million from gas drilling firm

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Larry Dean Winckler, former chief operating officer of Marcellus shale gas firm Falcon Drilling LLC, pleaded guilty today to federal charges of conspiracy, mail fraud and filing false tax returns, after a prosecutor outlined his embezzlement of $9 million, much of it spent on gambling.

Mr. Winckler, 53, of Indiana, Pa., could face five or six years in prison following a sentencing hearing set for May 30.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Melucci said that Mr. Winckler worked with the company’s controller and an auto parts dealer to funnel money out of the firm from 2004 through 2012.

He wrote checks in the tens of thousand of dollars, sometimes many times in a single month, which he disguised through fake purchases for parts and drill bits, Mr. Melucci said.

The prosecutor said that Mr. Winckler had an “enormous gambling problem” and lost much of the money at casinos in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.

“Yes, your honor,” Mr. Winckler said to U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry after Mr. Melucci described the crimes. He and his attorney, Martin Dietz, declined comment afterward.

Mr. Winckler is ordered to return $9,020,687. As part of that he is immediately paying $10,348 and forfeiting a Mickey Mouse diamond pendant, a Hello Kitty pendant, a dolphin pendant, a crystal figurine and a house in Rockton, Clearfield County.

Judge McVerry allowed him to be free on $50,000 unsecured bond pending sentencing.


Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord.

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