Like many in the defense business, Ron and William Kuchera partly built their firm on the back of what critics call “pork.”
Now, they’re switching to beef.
The pair, sentenced to house arrest and probation for federal government fraud this week, told a judge they have set up a nonprofit that will raise cattle for beef for shelters and similar charities working to feed the hungry.
In an apology to the court Tuesday, they described their nonprofit, Please Help Inc., as part of a pledge to spend the rest of their lives helping others.
“I feel horrible ... about what I’ve done,” Ron Kuchera told U.S. District Court Judge Kim Gibson. “And I’m committed to a life of charity and helping others.”
The brothers, facing the liklihood of three years in a federal prison for years of fraud, were given a lesser sentence – 18 months probation and five years probation – before a large crowd of supporters. Gibson described their crimes as “serious” but said they appeared to be an aberration in otherwise charitable lives, after defense attorneys pointed to years of efforts by the Kucheras to help those less fortunate.
“I expect you to justify the trust we’re putting in to you – that you won’t reoffend,” Gibson added.
Ron Kuchera, 51, told the court the pair have already have gotten their Please Help Inc. charity up and running and are on pace to donate 12,000 pounds of beef to Cambria and Somerset food pantries and groups that support them like the Somerset County Mobile Food Bank.
They hope to raise four times this year’s number of cattle – about 100 – in 2014. It’d be enough to provide beef, a valuable source of protein, to every community kitchen in Cambria and Somerset counties, Ron Kuchera said.
He said their plan, which would partly rely on cattle donations and then raising the animals on their free-range land, could end up serving as a model that could work across the nation.
It might seem like an uphill battle, given the pair will be asking support after admitting in court to spending taxpayers’ money – defense funds – on private trips and other personal uses. But William Kuchera’s attorney, Meagan Temple, said the pair have proven themselves as entrepreneurs who have exceeded expectations before.
The Kucheras grew their former Kuchera Defense Systems from a 12-employee shop to a 400-employee major contractor before a federal investigation ended the run. The facility was sold to API Technologies in 2010.
Online records show the Windber-based Please Help Inc. fundraiser was registered with the Internal Revenue Service in 2012.
GuideStar, an online database that provides details on more than 1.8 million registered nonprofits, listed Please Help Inc. as a food, agriculture and nutrition-based agency. It listed $16,228 in assets for 2012, but the site does not yet list its Form 990 – an annual report – or other financial details.
David Hurst is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him at www.twitter.com/tddavidhurst.