Contractor Gets Probation Over Murtha Earmark

Posted February 23, 2010 at 2:46pm

A contractor with close ties to the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) was sentenced Tuesday to five years probation for his involvement in a scheme to divert money from an earmark that Murtha had provided, the Associated Press reported.

Richard Ianieri, the former CEO of a defense contracting firm called Coherent Systems International, pleaded guilty last summer to diverting $1.8 million from an $8.2 million earmark and distributing it to companies for items that were not part of the original project.

Roll Call reported last year that Murtha provided the earmark to Coherent — a client of the lobbying firm that employed Murtha’s brother — by using a supplemental appropriations bill to move the money from a previous earmark for a former client of his brother’s firm.

He also pleaded guilty in a Pennsylvania court to accepting $200,000 in kickbacks from another contracting firm identified only as “K.” Those charges were brought by then-U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, who has now announced that she is running as a Republican candidate for Congress against Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.).

Coherent Systems at the time shared a Pennsylvania facility with Kuchera Industries and Kuchera Defense Systems, and the companies had received millions of dollars worth of earmarks from Murtha.

According to the Florida charges against Ianieri, in December 2005 he paid Kuchera $650,000 for products that were not part of the project Coherent was building for the Air Force.

The AP reported Tuesday that Ianieri could have faced as much as 15 years in jail, but U.S. District Judge Lacey Collier gave the lighter sentence because of Ianieri’s testimony against other defendants and his cooperation with a federal investigation into Congressional earmarks.

Murtha was not charged with wrongdoing in the case, and no documents filed in the case made mention of him. He died Feb. 8 from complications related to emergency gall bladder surgery. He was 77.