Whitehall businessman, 78, gets three years in prison for fraud

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Faced with two numbers — $2.9 million diverted through fraud and the defendant’s age of 78 — U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer considered them both and reached a compromise.

Ronald A. Moog of Whitehall could have faced five or six years in prison for fraud under federal sentencing guidelines. His attorney, Paul Kay, argued that his age and health problems, and his responsibility for his ailing wife, warranted leniency, possibly even a sentence served at home.

Judge Fischer was not persuaded, though, by his arguments that an octogenarian with diabetes and a replaced hip didn’t belong in prison. She sentenced him to three years in prison.

“You started consciously committing this fraud when you were age 62 and you continued year after year after year,” she told Moog. “Perhaps your business was in a bad place. … There were other ways of getting out of that bad place.”

Moog owned Moog Trans Financial Services in Castle Shannon, which audited and then paid freight bills for companies that did a large amount of shipping. It would hold some of its clients’ funds in trust to pay anticipated shipping invoices.

But from 1997 to 2010, as the company struggled, Moog diverted nearly $2.9 million from trust fund accounts to general operations, including payroll. He made up for it by delaying payment on shipping invoices, but eventually it caught up with him.

“I thought at one point we would be able to pay it back,” Moog said after his hearing.

In December, he pleaded guilty to fraud. The dollar amount of the fraud, his abuse of trust and the existence of 10 victims drove the guideline sentence to as high as 61⁄2 years.

Mr. Kay argued that such a sentence would be “equivalent to Mr. Moog dying in jail.”

Assistant U.S. attorney James Kitchen countered that age isn’t a license to steal, and to go easy on Moog would suggest to other businessmen that they could take similar actions when adversity hit. “This court’s sentence is going to do a lot to send a message to people who are in the same position that Mr. Moog was in,” he said.

After his prison term, Moog faces three years of probation. He has a judgment against him of $2,895,041, more than half of which is due to Mine Safety Appliances, his biggest client.

Moog noted that the money “went to support the employees,” rather than on lavish living. “I guess I should be happy for the sentence.”


Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord. First Published April 4, 2014 11:06 AM

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