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Background Edit

  • Investigating public corruption is a top FBI priority.
In two years, FBI investigations led to the convictions across the nation of more than 1,060 corrupt government employees, including 177 federal officials, 158 state officials, 360 local officials and more than 365 police officers.

The District Attorney should put his action where is words are and bust those who illegitimately tried to get away with the WE-HAV scam.

The idea of an ombudsman is here via the comments from the District Attorney in the Tribune Review.

Shovel-logo3 Edit


Media Links Edit

Who's Who Edit

  • Dr. Cyril H. Wecht
  • U.S. Attorney is Mary Beth Buchanan.
  • Allegheny County District Attorney, Stephen A. Zappala Jr.
  • Chris Briese, the special agent in charge of the FBI's field office in Pittsburgh.

Federal grand jury Investigating corruption in local public offices can take the form of a federal grand jury and actions of the District Attorney. But there are other ways prosecutors can have a say in matters of fairness.

Western PA has a history of multiple public corruption probesEdit

  • Many cases remain active.
  • White-collar crime probes have been convened.
  • The region's top law enforcement agencies are working to come up with better ways to target crooked politicians.
  • "It's clear we have a long way to go," Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said after meeting with FBI agents and two federal prosecutors whose work contributed to indictment of former Allegheny County Medical Examiner, Dr. Cyril Wecht.
* Zappala would say only that they discussed "a joint investigation on another matter involving public corruption that we want to bring to conclusion. It's not (someone) that has been indicted already."

Pending investigations: Edit

  • The contract former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy awarded city firefighters on the eve of the May 2001 mayoral primary, which Murphy won by just 699 votes.
  • Allegations of campaign finance abuses and other misconduct in the office of county Sheriff Pete DeFazio.
  • Elizabeth District Judge Ernest Marraccini, who played a role in a failed alternative housing program for jail inmates, which is at the center of last year's indictment of Chief Deputy Sheriff Dennis Skosnik.
  • Allegations of absentee balloting fraud by county Treasurer John Weinstein and his father, Democratic powerbroker, Mel Weinstein, of Kennedy Township. State officials announced in December 2004 they dropped a separate investigation of the Weinsteins.


"I think what you're seeing now, four years later, with the resources there, more cases are being made," Briese said. "These are some pretty telling numbers."

And the FBI's focus in Pittsburgh will remain investigating public corruption for the foreseeable future -- and for good reason, Briese said.

"It goes to the core of the public's trust," he said. "There's a fundamental level of trust in government, and I think it's our responsibility to protect that."

Briese said he hopes successful prosecutions in Pittsburgh eventually will help deter public corruption.

"Unfortunately, there is still a lot of criminal activity, and that's what we'll continue to investigate," he said.

Wecht's indictment on 84 charges of using his public office to augment his lucrative private business capped a year of FBI raids, criminal trials and other indictments targeting a wide range of public employees.

Starting last January, 10 of 13 county jail guards arrested in a sex-for-favors scandal at the Uptown lockup went to court. Half pleaded guilty, one was convicted and four were acquitted.

The federal grand jury in May indicted sheriff's Capt. Frank Schiralli and Lt. Cmdr. Richard Stewart Jr. on charges of lying about how deputies in their office were pressured to donate to political campaigns. Schiralli, 53, of McKees Rocks, was convicted on one count and sentenced to 26 months in prison after a trial that included allegations of shakedowns of public employees for campaign contributions, case-fixing and forcing public workers to do yard work at a supervisor's home.

A parade of prominent local and national figures appeared before the grand jury as part of the Wecht probe, including noted forensic scientist Henry Lee and the coroner's son, Common Pleas Judge David Wecht.

In November, the grand jury indicted Skosnik, 54, of North Fayette, on charges of bribery, money laundering, wire and mail fraud and witness tampering. Federal authorities launched an investigation into Skosnik's dealings as far back as March 1999, according to discovery material turned over this week. The 44 audio cassettes, compact discs and videos are in addition to the collection of 39 handed over in November.

State Rep. Jeff Habay, R-Shaler, was convicted in December by a county jury of conflict of interest following the first of two criminal trials on charges he used public employees for political work.

An investigation by state Attorney General Tom Corbett into an OxyContin ring snared two former jail guards and two former employees of the county Treasurer's Office on Dec. 22. And earlier this month, seven more current and former county jail employees were arrested on charges of smuggling and selling drugs in the lockup.

The biggest names at the center of those investigations -- Wecht, DeFazio and Murphy -- are Democrats. Zappala said politics has played no role, and that claims of partisan witch-hunting by Buchanan, a Republican, are unfounded.

"The evidence in the Wecht and Murphy matter initially came to my attention, and I'm a Democrat and I acted on it," Zappala said. "The Habay case came to me from the (state) Ethics Commission."

But the majority of public corruption cases -- up to 80 percent -- are brought to court by federal prosecutors.

From 1994 to 2004, federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh prosecuted 60 cases that resulted in convictions, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. During that same period, 515 public officials were convicted of corruption in federal courts across Pennsylvania.

Corbett and Zappala have plans to strengthen their offices' ability to investigate public corruption cases. Corbett said this week he plans to revive a public corruption unit in his office that was disbanded years ago.

"One of the reasons they made the attorney general an elected position was to deal with corruption cases," he said. "So my plan is to designate maybe four attorneys and three agents to handle those cases."

Zappala said he is working with Buchanan to set up a mechanism to make it easier for citizens and public employees to confidentially report misconduct and corruption.

He said he expects to announce that plan in the next few weeks.

"There has to be a better way for the public to talk to us," Zappala said.

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