Indictment of ousted Pittsburgh police Chief Harper likely as grand jury meets
A federal indictment appears imminent against ousted Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper, the Tribune-Review has learned.
A grand jury met Friday. Sandy Ganster, manager of the police bureau's Office of Personnel and Finance, entered the grand jury room at about 8:30 a.m. She left without commenting about 10:15.
Karen Palmer, an accountant in Ganster's office, left the room about 20 minutes later. She declined to comment.
As many as six charges are being considered against Harper, 60, of Stanton Heights, sources tell the Trib. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl removed Harper in February amid a growing police scandal.
Harper's attorneys and federal authorities declined to comment. Harper would not discuss the investigation when asked this week during his appearance at an unrelated federal civil trial in U.S. District Court, Downtown.
Two top supervisors in the U.S. Attorney's Office joined Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Cessar in the grand jury room about 11:20, and left without commenting less than 10 minutes later. Cessar is overseeing the investigation.
He, staff members and jurors left shortly before noon.
The grand jury is investigating Harper's role in the city's contracting with a shell company formed by Art Bedway, 63, of Robinson to install equipment in police cars. Bedway and Harper were friends.
Bedway and prosecutors are discussing a plea deal on a charge of defrauding the government, court records show. His lawyer, Martin Dietz, declined to comment. Prosecutors say Bedway operated Victory Security of Carnegie, which once employed Harper's wife, Cynthia, a former police officer.
Bedway and city police Sgt. Gordon McDaniel, who oversaw the police vehicle fleet, appeared before the grand jury on Jan. 22. The next day, former city information systems employee Christine Kebr testified.
Kebr, 56, of Castle Shannon pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy in federal court for rigging the city's bid with Bedway. Bedway set up Alpha Outfitters, claiming it was a female-owned business, to win the federally funded police contract.
The city paid more than $327,000 to Alpha Outfitters between 2007 and 2009 to install computers and electronic equipment in police vehicles, according to federal prosecutors.
Kebr is scheduled to be sentenced on April 4. Her attorney, Gary Gerson, did not return a call for comment.
Harper has said the police bureau “had no involvement in securing this contract or making any payments.” One of Harper's attorneys, Robert Del Greco, said the FBI questioned Harper.
Since the Trib reported the grand jury investigation in January, a federal investigation expanded into spending by police officials and employees close to Ravenstahl. The mayor and others have spoken to FBI agents and federal prosecutors.
Ganster, under a grant of immunity, told authorities she diverted $25,000 to $35,000 in public money over three to four years into a secret account Harper ordered her to open at the Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union, her attorney, Bill Difenderfer has said.
The money came from payments that businesses, including bars, restaurants, strip clubs, construction firms and sports teams, made to hire off-duty police officers, often to provide security.
Harper ordered debit cards from the credit union account, issued in the names of eight people, including Ravenstahl's bodyguards, city officials say. City officials said they were investigating spending from the cards, and the FBI made copies of account records at the credit union.
It's unclear whether an indictment would involve spending from the credit union.
The FBI interviewed civilian police clerk Tamara Davis, one of Harper's former subordinates who started a private security firm with him called Diverse Public Safety Consultants LLC.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. last month sent a cease-and-desist letter to company owners Harper, Cmdr. Eric Holmes, Sgt. Barry Budd, Officer Tonya Montgomery-Ford and Davis because they didn't have a private detective license.
Zappala said his office was not part of any investigation of the credit union accounts. He confirmed that a city police officer tipped off his office to examine the Alpha Outfitters contract. Zappala said his office began a grand jury investigation “in late summer” of issues involved with the contract but turned the case over to federal prosecutors.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Owner of Penn Hills tombstone business pleads guilty to swindling the bereaved
- Carnegie Mellon University’s Speck device monitors indoor pollution
- New Castle-area racino remains in limbo
- ‘Swing Night’ has feel of Prohibition-era dance hall
- Shortfalls sabotage promise of union retirees’ pensions
- 17 Pennsylvania veterans inducted into Hall of Valor
- School choice tax credit expansion bill touted
- Pa. woman charged with forging docs to claim she was an attorney
- Mt. Lebanon native, Iraq war hero’s action goes unrewarded
- Scaife additions to elevate status of two museums
- Newsmaker: Sharna Olfman