Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Corbett Charges Veon

Charges of theft, criminal conspiracy and conflict of interest have been filed against former House Democratic Minority Whip Mike Veon of Beaver County. One of his staffers faces similar charges. PA Attorney General Tom Corbett says the investigation centered on the Beaver Initiative for Growth. (BIG) BIG was a non-profit entity created by Veon in 1991. The initiative was mostly funded by state grants and Corbett alleges the funds were misspent to the point of criminality. The Attorney General says a grand jury determined that BIG was established primarily for the personal and political benefit of Mike Veon and he controlled every dollar that left the charity’s coffers.

Although Veon formed BIG in 1991 and in the first 11 years collected less than one million dollars. However, between 2003 and 2006 BIG received approximately $9.9 million in grant money. Corbett says of the $4.7 million spent by BIG from 2004 to 2006, only 23% was used toward actual program expenses. The rest went to salaries, consultants and administrative costs. Veon is alleged to have control over who was chosen for the work and often awarded no-bid consulting contracts. The Grand jury fund that BIG operated an office in Midland, Beaver County and an office in Pittsburgh. The offices were never staffed by a BIG employee and were allegedly used as campaign offices. Further the grand jury alleges at least $20,000 was taken from BIG and sent to Veon’s legislative staff for their help during political campaigns.

The grand jury also found that between 2003 and 2007 the company Delta Development received more than $1 million from BIG. During that same period of time, Delta Development made significant political contributions to Veon and other House Democratic candidates. Corbett alleges Delta Development provided little to no work for the funds they received from BIG and gave Veon’s brother, Mark, a $160,000 a year position.

In all Veon could face 162 years in prison and a $350,000 fine. He is to turn himself into authorities Thursday morning.

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