The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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April 21, 2013

Mocking public's trust | Kuchera brothers defrauded citizens

JOHNSTOWN — There was no defense for the defense contactors in federal court last week.

William Kuchera, 58, of Summerhill, and Ronald Kuchera, 51, of Johnstown, pleaded guilty to major fraud against the government and conspiracy.

“The Kucheras cheated the government by claiming improper reimbursement, submitting a false invoice, and then kicking back $200,000 to the prime contracter,” U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton said in a statement.

“Such blatant and outrageous fraud against the United States cannot and will not be tolerated,” he said.

We couldn’t agree more.

The Kucheras face up to 15 years in prison and millions in fines and civil penalties, and we hope that when they are sentenced on Oct. 7 that the penalty is a stiff one.

Government investigators said that the brothers, who operated Kuchera Defense System Inc., bilked the government out of money in a number of different ways.

-- They submitted a false invoice to Coherent Systems International Inc.,  which was a defense contractor owned by Richard S. Ianieri. The invoice sought a $650,000 payment for a component that was never delivered. Upon payment from Coherent, the brothers kicked back about $200,000 to Ianieri, according to the government investigators.

-- The pair claimed lobbying costs, hunting trips and a private airplane as business expenses. Some of those expenses were invested in a game ranch.

The way we see it, the Kucheras cheated John Q. Public in a number of ways.

 Not only did they take that ill-gotten $650,000 from a government drowning in red ink, but that also meant that it couldn’t be applied in another area where it really was needed.

Combine that with the bogus expenses that the brothers claimed and the amount that we the taxpayers were conned out of begins to rise even more.

There has already been a financial hit for the Kucheras – each has agreed to pay a $50,000 fine and a $450,000 civil forfeiture. They also owe the Internal Revenue Service almost $400,000 combined.

Additionally, the Kucheras and KDS will pay $2.7 million to resolve their civil liabilities with the Defense Department.

That’s a good start.

In October we’ll find out what the real punishment is, and we hope it fits the crime.

Ianeri pleaded guilty in 2009 to soliciting kickbacks and was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay $200,000.

We hope that the Kucheras are handed a sentence that includes jail time.

Our community and our nation put our faith and trust in them. Not only were they a valuable asset to our region, but they were relied upon to produce key components for our national defense.

They took advantage of that trust.

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