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Embattled Pittsburgh police chief returns to work

| Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, 12:18 p.m.
A federal grand jury indicted ousted Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper for conspiracy to take public money and failure to file tax returns. Prosecutors charged Harper, 60, of Stanton Heights with four counts of failure to pay taxes on his $110,000 salary and one count of conspiracy.

Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper returned to work Monday amid questions about a federal investigation into whether he was involved in awarding a contract to a shell company set up by one-time friend Art Bedway.

Police spokeswoman Diane Richard issued a statement on behalf of Harper, who was off the job because of his mother's death on Jan. 16.

“The Harper family is thankful for those who came to pay their respects and to those who sent prayers of comfort,” she said.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said he talked to Harper, 59, of Stanton Heights about the investigation, but only to ask whether he did anything wrong.

“The answer was ‘no,' and I take the chief at his word,” Ravenstahl said.

Harper last week declined to say whether he received a target letter from a federal grand jury or testified.

He has not been charged and has said the police bureau “had no involvement in securing this contract or making any payments.”

Bedway, 63, of Robinson controls Carnegie-based Victory Security. In November, federal prosecutors accused Bedway of conspiring with a former city employee and unidentified others to set up Alpha Outfitters to win a contract to install computers in police vehicles.

The city paid more than $327,000 to Alpha Outfitters between 2007 and 2009 for work on police vehicles. Prosecutors charged Bedway with bribery, conspiracy and mail fraud, saying he and former city employee Christine Kebr, 56, of Castle Shannon conspired in 2006 with others to form Alpha Outfitters as if it were a female-owned business so he could have a better chance to win a contract bid.

The grand jury last week heard testimony from Bedway and Kebr. She pleaded guilty in December to helping Bedway.

Harper describes Bedway as a former friend.

The chief said his wife, Cynthia Harper, 58, once worked as a consultant with Kathleen Bowman, co-owner of Victory Security.

Bob Bauder is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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