— The Tribune-Democrat is counting down the top stories of 2013, as determined by voting by newsroom employees. One story will appear each day in print and e-editions between now and the end of the year. Readers can vote for their choice for the top story at www.tribdem.com/beststories.
A lengthy federal investigation into two Windber defense contractors ended with guilty pleas to government fraud. Last week, home detention and probation sentences were ordered.
Ron and William Kuchera were sentenced to five years probation – the first 18 months on house arrest – for defrauding the government of millions in funds given to them for defense projects.
In addition to the house arrest and probation, the brothers were ordered to repay the Department of Defense and IRS nearly $3.1 million combined, as well as forfeit $450,000 and pay $500,000 fines each, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Despite prosecutors’ push for both men to receive jail time, U.S. District Judge Kim Gibson gave the men sentences below standard guidelines for their crimes, citing their track record of charitable giving. More than 150 support letters were presented to the court by their defense attorneys, and the Kuchera brothers apologized for their mistakes, saying they used poor judgement.
Prosecutors noted they cheated the government by claiming improper reimbursements, spending government funds on private uses such as a jet and trips to Florida.
“The Kucheras cheated the government by claiming improper reimbursements, submitting a false invoice, and then kicking back monies to the prime contractor,” said U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton. “Such blatant and outrageous fraud against the United States cannot and will not be tolerated.”
The Kucheras sold their former Kuchera Defense Systems company to API Technologies Corp. for $24 million in 2010.
The pair have started up a nonprofit called Please Help Inc., with the goal of raising cattle for beef they would provide to Cambria and Somerset counties food pantries and other groups who work to feed the hungry.
David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/tddavidhurst.