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Couple guilty of defrauding hospitals, utility

| Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2003

A former Westmoreland County couple who operated several construction businesses in the Pittsburgh area pleaded guilty Monday to racketeering and related charges for their part in a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud two hospitals, a utility company and the federal government.

Thomas M. Burtoft, 49, and his wife, Susan M. Burtoft, 41, former Murrysville residents who now live in Kentucky, overbilled major customers -- including Mercy and UPMC Shadyside hospitals and Allegheny Power Inc. -- with the complicity of corrupt employees who accepted bribes to allow their employers to be cheated, federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh said.

Burtoft and his wife pleaded guilty to various violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO), mail fraud and tax fraud. Prosecutors said the couple, who now live in Bowling Green, evaded paying federal taxes on the income they obtained from their schemes.

The couple agreed to forfeit money and extensive real estate acquired through their racketeering activity, prosecutors said. They were forced to forfeit at least six of their nine homes earlier this year.

They also will be liable to pay restitution to their customers, prosecutors said. Mercy Hospital, Uptown, lost $4.2 million, UPMC Shadyside lost more than $430,000 and Greensburg-based Allegheny Power lost more than $940,000. The U.S. Treasury Department lost $1.3 million in unpaid taxes.

The Burtofts are free on bond to await sentencing Jan. 8.

The two are cooperating with the ongoing investigation and have agreed to testify against others involved in the scheme, including two Mercy employees, a Shadyside employee and an Allegheny Power employee.

Those employees, who have not been identified in open court, received cash, car payments and expensive items such as shotguns that cost $8,300, prosecutors said.

Several other people previously entered guilty pleas in U.S. District Court and are cooperating with investigators.

James Harper, 67, of West Mifflin, former president of LaMarca Corp.; Thomas C. Manos, 40, of Verona, owner of Enlightened Roads Construction Co.; and Carmen J. Tierno Jr., 52, of Penn Hills, president of C.J. Tierno Inc., also have entered guilty pleas in the case and are cooperating with prosecutors. All are identified as Burtoft associates.

Another man, Jack C. Barton, 50, of Library, a manager for Wyatt Inc., pleaded guilty to mail fraud for his role in bilking Allegheny Power out of $200,000.

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