The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

May 8, 2013

Feds: Area man laundered stolen drilling firm money

PITTSBURGH — An Indiana County auto repair shop owner helped a former natural gas drilling company executive launder more than $762,000 in allegedly stolen money as part of a scheme authorities have said cost the energy firm as much as $10 million.

The money laundering conspiracy charge filed against Daniel Pikel, 57, of Home, relates to thefts from Falcon Drilling. The company’s former controller has pleaded guilty to helping the Falcon’s former chief operating officer steal some of the missing money.

The controller, 43-year-old Cheryl Brooks, of Clymer, will be sentenced May 31. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Melucci said at her guilty plea hearing in January that authorities plan to indict Falcon’s former COO, Larry Winckler, in connection with the stolen money. He also said that investigators had traced about $10 million in stolen funds, though the investigation was continuing.

Winckler, 52, of Indiana, has not been indicted. His defense attorney, Martin Dietz, did not immediately return a call for comment on Wednesday.

Dietz previously confirmed the ongoing federal investigation of his client, who was charged by state police last year with stealing nearly $1 million from Falcon Drilling. Those charges have been dropped, with the state police saying they had enlisted the FBI and Internal Revenue Service to help their investigation as the tally of stolen money grew.

Brooks pleaded guilty to conspiracy, mail fraud and tax fraud and acknowledged helping Winckler steal more than $5.4 million from Falcon, including $557,000 she kept for herself.

The new charge against Pikel  contends he used his business, Pikel Universal Auto Repair in Rayne Township, to help Winckler steal $762,450.

Pikel’s defense attorneys did not immediately return requests for comment.

According to the criminal information filed by federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh on Monday, Pikel cashed 28 checks that Winckler wrote against Falcon’s petty cash account from June 2009 through December 2011.

Pikel then faked invoices from his company, which suggested that his auto repair company had sold Falcon drill bits. Investigators say no drill bits were delivered and the whole process was a ruse to help Winck­ler steal the money, which Pikel then gave to Winckler. The charges don’t say whether Pikel kept any money for himself as part of the alleged scheme.

Brooks’ attorney, Patrick Nightingale, has said she is “full of remorse and grief” and is cooperating with investigators and working to repay the money by selling real and personal property she owned before the thefts – that is, not property she bought with the stolen money. The attorney said she is also surrendering a vested pension.  

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • smothers ‘It breaks my heart’: Shooting victim’s death leaves trail of shattered lives

    Victoria Smothers knows what people thought when they heard that a young black male had been shot to death in Moxham last week.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • School violence studied

    On a typical day last year, Pennsylvania schools caught 11 students toting weapons similar to ones used to slash 21 students and a security guard at a Pittsburgh-area high school, according to the state Department of Education. An untold number of others likely brought weapons to school but weren’t caught, safety experts say.

    April 16, 2014

  • Home is Where The Tribune-Democrat is Delivered!

    April 17, 2014

  • egg hunt17 ACRP quietly notes 25th anniversary

    There will be little or no fanfare accompanying Alternative Community Resource Program’s 25th anniversary.
    And that’s how the executive director, Frank Janakovic, wants it.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • windber17 Windber students earn top ‘Overchiever’ rank

    Windber Area school’s PSSA scores have been tops in the region for the past several years.
    This year, they’re among the head of the class statewide, Pittsburgh Business Times annual Schools Guide shows.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wise, Charles Police charge bank robbery suspect

    A Johnstown man was jailed on $250,000 bond after police said he robbed the West End Branch of AmeriServ Financial. Charles Wise, 48, of Barron Avenue, was charged with two counts of robbery.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Inmate awaits sentencing for assault on guard

    A former inmate faces up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced for assaulting a corrections officer at State Correctional Institution-Somerset, authorities said.

    April 16, 2014

  • windber pool Pool stays afloat despite troubles

    When a valve broke at the Windber Recreation Park pool last month, its municipal authority caretakers feared that meant the end for the pool’s aged, much-patched liner.
    But the old liner has held up – a stroke of luck that will save Windber Municipal Authority from having to seek a line of credit to cover repairs or risk delaying the pool opening, the authority’s recreation director, C.W. Beckley, said.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Creativity blossoming for spring art show

    The 16th annual Art in Bloom spring art show will brighten the Cambria County Courthouse in Ebensburg from noon to 6 p.m. April 26 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 27.

    April 16, 2014

  • Alcatraz Challenge offers escape from routine

    Greater Johnstown Community YMCA is gearing up for its indoor biathlon, the Alcatraz Challenge.

    April 16, 2014

Poll

Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads