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Greensburg man admits taking $354,072 from Indiana County golf resort accounts

Paul Peirce
| Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, 2:21 p.m.

The former chief executive and finance officer of the Chestnut Ridge Golf Course and Conference Center in Indiana County admitted in federal court to unlawfully spending more than $350,000 from the resort's business accounts.

Rocco Panucci, 53, of Greensburg, pleaded guilty Wednesday to wire fraud and income tax evasion before U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab in Pittsburgh.

According to the information presented to the court, Panucci was hired by the Blairsville resort in 2007 at an annual salary of $100,000, with $21,000 in benefits.

Acting U.S. Attorney Soo C. Song said Panucci was responsible for the day-to-day operations until he was dismissed in December 2012 after the questionable expenditures were discovered.

Panucci spent the money to benefit himself and his family, a federal complaint alleges. For example, he used $20,741 of Chestnut Ridge money to pay for his children's college tuition and $139,184 for personal travel, leisure, dining and entertainment, the U.S. attorney's office said.

In all, prosecutors said Panucci unlawfully spent $354,072 over five years.

The complaint alleges Panucci directed that an American Express credit card issued to the golf course be sent to his home address so itemized statements were not seen by anyone at Chestnut Ridge. When it was time to pay the charges, Panucci provided Chestnut Ridge's in-house bookkeeper his handwritten lists of what appeared to be legitimate expenditures but which were fabrications to cover personal expenses charged to the account, prosecutors allege.

Panucci, a member of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Hempfield, in 2013 received an award for philanthropy from Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Greensburg at its annual Salt and Light Dinner.

He is a former director of food and beverage at Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel at Station Square.

Panucci remains free on bond pending sentencing, which Schwab scheduled for April 4.

The Internal Revenue Service criminal investigation unit conducted the investigation.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2860, or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.

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