- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A former city employee was sentenced Tuesday to probation for accepting $6,000 in bribes and blamed the former police chief for orchestrating a scheme that helped the chief’s friend land a $327,000 contract to install radios and computers in city police cars.

Christine Kebr, 57, was a systems analyst for the city when she accepted the money from the police chief’s businessman friend, Arthur Bedway Jr. The bid from Bedway’s business, Alpha Outfitters, was crafted to appear as if it came from a woman-owned company in order to take advantage of city set-asides for minority and woman-owned businesses, federal prosecutors said.

Kebr, who was sentenced to three years of probation, and Bedway have both claimed the 2007 scheme was the brainchild of former police Chief Nathan Harper.

“She’s a good soldier, she was dedicated to the police and Chief Harper, and that was her first lapse in judgment,” defense attorney Gary Gerson told U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon.

Harper’s attorneys have consistently denied wrongdoing.

“If Kebr and Bedway insist on deflecting their own responsibility by accusing the chief, so be it,” Harper’s attorney Robert Del Greco said Tuesday.

Del Greco said the duo’s allegations have been investigated and have not resulted in charges against his client.

Bedway contends he paid Harper $9,000, while Kebr claims to not know whether Harper received money, according to Gerson.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Cessar asked Bissoon for leniency because of Kebr’s “substantial” cooperation.

Prosecutors declined to comment after the sentencing, citing pending legal action against Harper in another case.

Harper resigned last February and later pleaded guilty to unrelated federal charges that he helped 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. He also pleaded guilty to spending more than $30,000 from the fund for personal reasons and not filing federal tax returns from 2008 to 2011.

Harper is scheduled for sentencing Feb. 25 in the slush fund case. His attorneys have said the fact that Harper hasn’t been charged in the bid-rigging scheme suggests that Bedway wasn’t credible. But the attorneys didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment after Kebr was lauded by prosecutors for providing substantially the same information that Bedway did about Harper’s alleged involvement in the bid-rigging.

Gerson said Kebr became involved because she was upset that a past vendor hadn’t properly installed electronic equipment in city police cars. Kebr, a “computer geek”, agreed to help Bedway get the contract after Harper assured her that Bedway’s company would do the job well, Gerson said.

Harper told her: “I’ve got someone in mind. And that someone, your honor, was Art Bedway,” Gerson told the judge.

Bedway is also serving three years of probation. His sentence does not include six months of house confinement, which Bissoon tacked onto Kebr’s punishment for violating the public trust as a city employee. Kebr also was fined $6,000, a fraction of the $30,000 the judge ordered Bedway to pay.

Gerson argued that Kebr didn’t like Bedway and initially resisted his efforts to pay her. Kebr eventually took $3,000 from Bedway, after the bid had been awarded, along with an identical amount months later, but she gave both sums to her brother, who had health and financial problems, Gerson said.

Gerson’s attorney said her motive was never financial.

Bissoon, who seemed perplexed, asked Kebr directly why she took the money.

“It was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Kebr replied.

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