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Ex-West Mifflin police chief pleads guilty

| Tuesday, June 13, 2006, 12:00 p.m.

Former West Mifflin police Chief Frank Diener engaged in a pattern of public corruption that included instructing officers to fix cases and stealing drugs and other items from the police department's evidence room, U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said Monday.

Buchanan's remarks followed Diener's guilty plea yesterday in U.S. District Court to possession with intent to deliver cocaine and marijuana and obstruction of justice.

Immediately after his plea before U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti, Diener, 57, of West Mifflin, was taken into custody by state police and taken to Pittsburgh Municipal Court, where he was arraigned on 19 state charges including theft by unlawful taking and obstruction.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said other arrests in the case are expected.

"The majority of law enforcement officers do act in the interest of the public," Buchanan said. "Unfortunately, some act in their own selfish interest. That was Frank Diener."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Stallings said that in March -- after learning the FBI was investigating him -- Diener gave a paint can containing marijuana and cocaine to one of the FBI's cooperating witnesses.

Stallings said Diener told the witness to destroy the drugs, which Buchanan said came from the West Mifflin police evidence locker.

In a criminal complaint, state police said Diener took numerous items from the borough and police department including a $21,000 skid loader, a video gambling machine, a $5,000 trailer, $10,000 in tools from the trailer, a $2,000 generator and computers.

The state police complaint charges that Diener instructed two borough police officers to void traffic citations. State police also have charged him with obstructing investigations of an assault and a burglary.

Diener resigned as West Mifflin police chief in October 2005 after being suspended various times by Mayor John Andzelik. Diener's pension is about $42,000 a year.

West Mifflin police Chief Joseph Popovich said he is concentrating on "putting this behind us and moving the department forward."

Conti set a $10,000 unsecured bond. Diener's sentencing in federal court is scheduled for Oct. 13.

Brookline District Judge Charles McLaughlin set bond at 10 percent of $50,000. Diener's preliminary hearing on the state charges is scheduled for Thursday, but Diener's attorney, Robert Stewart, said the hearing will be postponed.

Stewart said that in pleading guilty to the federal charges, Diener is "accepting responsibility for things he did wrong."

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