PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) - Former Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper has pleaded guilty to federal charges that he conspired to steal city police funds deposited into unauthorized credit union accounts and willfully failed to file income tax returns.
Harper appeared Friday afternoon before U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon.
The 60-year-old former police chief allegedly conspired with others to divert more than $70,000 from a city account into two unauthorized credit union accounts, then spent nearly $32,000 of that himself. He's also charged with failing to file federal tax returns from 2008 to 2011, when much of the money was allegedly stolen.
Harper was surrounded by family as he walked silently away from the Federal Courthouse on Friday afternoon.
The former Pittsburgh Police chief's attorney says his reason for pleading guilty is simple.
"Because he was guilty; I mean, we acknowledged that from the beginning," said Bob Del Greco, Harper's attorney.
"The evidence is overwhelming, and as embarrassing and problematic as that is, he was in a position where he couldn't legitimately defend the charges and so he's accepted responsibility," Del Greco added.
Harper will now fight to stay out of federal prison and attempt to keep his $6,000-a-month pension.
"Nate has pleaded guilty because he was guilty and we are hopeful that, at some point, we can… to get to the point to keep him out of jail and keep his pension," said Del Greco.
Harper admits to stealing more than $31,000 from the city. His attorneys will not explain why.
KDKA's Marty Griffin: "Has he expressed to anybody why he did this, sir?"
Harper's Attorney Bob Leight: "We'd rather not get into that right now. It wouldn't be appropriate."
Federal sentencing guidelines suggest Harper could face between 12 to 16 months in federal prison, though his attorneys are expected to eventually argue for house arrest or probation.
"He has plead guilty and he'll now be sentenced for those transgressions in February," Del Greco said.
A statement released by U.S. Attorney David Hickton reads:
"This case is about greed and theft of taxpayer money and private gain. Public officials, especially those who serve in law enforcement, have a responsibility to make governmental decisions in the best interest of the citizens, not themselves."
A list of purchases made by the Former Chief with stolen money provided by officials includes a new XM Radio, upgrades to his home oven, a brand new television, and a $400 steak dinner at The Capital Grille.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
for more features.