Ex-Pittsburgh police chief's former pal sentenced in computer scam

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A businessman and ex-friend of the city's former police chief was sentenced Tuesday to three years' probation for bribing a city official to get a $327,000 contract to put radios and computers in city police cars.

Arthur Bedway Jr., who pleaded guilty in August, was also ordered to pay a $30,000 fine. He again blamed many of his troubles on the former chief, Nathan Harper Jr., who faces sentencing in federal court next month on unrelated charges stemming from a city police slush fund and failing to file federal tax returns.

"Thirty years of friendship put me on these steps today," Bedway said outside the U.S. District Court building after his sentencing. "Don't trust your friends."

Bedway, 64, contends Harper came up with the idea to rename a security firm owned by Bedway as Alpha Outfitters so the company could bid on the 2007 contract.

Bedway contends Harper received $9,000 for his role in the scheme, a claim Harper's attorneys have repeatedly denied. Bedway made similar comments following his guilty plea, and earlier this month, Bedway's attorney, Martin Dietz, filed a presentence memorandum claiming Harper hatched the scheme and recruited Bedway to join it. Harper's attorneys didn't immediately return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

But U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon told Bedway she found his explanation "credible, albeit not excusable" in sentencing him to probation instead of 12 to 18 months in prison, as recommended by federal sentencing guidelines.

"Does the government have any evidence that what Mr. Bedway says about how he became involved in this scheme is untrue?" the judge asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Karl.

"No," Karl said.

Bedway's attorney seized on those statements in comments after the sentencing.

"She found it credible that Bedway got involved in this behavior because Nate Harper recruited him," Dietz said, adding later, "He was facing a jail guideline-range sentence and she imposed probation."

Karl and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Cessar, who also prosecuted the case, referred comment to U.S. Attorney David Hickton. Hickton, through his spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Another ex-city employee, Christine Kebr, faces sentencing next month. Kebr pleaded guilty to taking $6,000 from Bedway to make it appear Alpha Outfitters was owned by a woman to take advantage of set-asides for such businesses. Harper's attorneys have acknowledged he introduced Kebr to Bedway but said that was done out of friendship after learning Bedway planned to bid on the contract.

Harper resigned in February and was indicted in March on charges he conspired to set up a secret $70,000 police slush fund using fees collected from bars and other businesses that hire city officers to work off-duty security details. Harper has pleaded guilty to spending more than $30,000 from the fund for personal reasons and to not filing federal tax returns from 2008 to 2011.

Dietz said he believes Harper hasn't been charged in the Bedway scheme because he's helped in federal investigations against unspecified individuals. Harper's attorneys have confirmed he's spoken with investigators, but they haven't provided details.

Last week, Hickton confirmed that an ongoing federal investigation in which former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's police bodyguards and others have been subpoenaed by a grand jury began only after Harper was charged.

Ravenstahl, whose term expired last month, dropped his re-election bid three weeks before Harper was indicted.

The former mayor has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and has yet to be charged. Ravenstahl's bodyguards have said they were questioned about their pay and expense records, particularly pertaining to instances when the 33-year-old divorced mayor would be out at night.