Judge hands Whitehall businessman prison sentence for stealing nearly $3 million
A Whitehall businessman sentenced on Friday to three years in prison for stealing nearly $3 million from clients said he never intended to keep the money.
“I thought at one time we would be able to pay it back,” said Ronald A. Moog, 78, who was president and majority shareholder of Moog Trans Financial Services Inc.
Moog pleaded guilty in December to wire fraud and mail fraud. His company collected and audited shipping invoices for companies and paid their freight shipping bills.
When his business was failing in 1997, he started taking $10,000 to $20,000 a month from a trust account, leaving client's bills unpaid so that he could pay his employees.
He would then use deposits from the clients to pay their old bills, building up a deficit that eventually reached about $3 million before the scheme unraveled in 2010, prosecutors say.
The companies Moog stole from include Mine Safety Appliances, which lost about $1.5 million, JENNMAR, which lost about $1 million, and Traco, which lost about $195,000.
United States District Judge Nora Barry Fischer sentenced Moog to three years in prison, followed by three years of probation, and ordered him to pay $2.9 million in restitution to 10 companies. Moog remains free on a $10,000 unsecured bond until he reports to prison.
He said afterward that he probably couldn't complain about the sentence.
“I was hoping for better, but we'll take what comes and do the time,” he said.
Federal sentencing guidelines recommended five years and three months to six years and six months, based on the details of his crime, his lack of a criminal history and other factors.
Paul Kay, his lawyer, asked the judge to consider home confinement based on his age, health problems and the need to care for his wife, who has limited mobility. Though any of these factors alone might not warrant leniency, together they do, Kay said.
“He's in no condition to ever offend again,” he said.
He pointed out that Moog's motivation wasn't the usual one of fast living, drugs or gambling.
“There was no lavish lifestyle,” he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Kitchen said the reason Moog was 78 when he appeared before Fischer is that he hid his crimes for more than a decade. Rewarding that deception with a lighter sentence would send the wrong message to others in the business world in similar positions of trust, he said.
Fischer said she considered Moog's age and health, along with his lengthy betrayal of his clients' trust.
His business was in a bad place in 1997, she said, but “there were other ways of getting out of that bad place.”
Brian Bowling is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-325-4301 or email@example.com.