Veon misused non-profit funded by tax dollars, prosecutor says

Posted: February 16, 2012 at 5:25 pm

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HARRISBURG — Former Rep. Mike Veon used state grant money intended for economic development to further his own personal and political agenda, a state prosecutor told a jury today.

Veon, a longtime Democratic power broker formerly of Beaver Falls, is charged with theft-related offenses and conflict of interest for allegedly misusing funds from a non-profit he created and supplied with $10 million in state grant money. Opening arguments began today in Dauphin County Court.

In 2010, a jury convicted Veon of 14 charges for awarding under-the-table salary to legislative staffers who worked on campaigns. He is serving a 6- to 14-year prison term.

In this case, Veon, 55, "used the authority of his office to directly benefit his family," Deputy Attorney General Laurel Brandstetter said. He did so by arranging a $100,000-plus job with a development contractor that was paid $900,000 by the Beaver Initiative for Growth and had substantial contracts with House Democrats, Brandstetter said.

That is one of several instances of misuse, she said.

Veon made about $95,000 as a legislative leader and from BIG "he made zero," said Dan Raynak, Veon's lawyer.

The initial charge against Veon alleged he tried to get a higher salary for his brother, Mark, not a job, Raynak said.

The alleged go-between for Veon, his former chief of staff Jeffrey Foreman, is a "multi-convicted felon," Raynak said.

Raynak said the jury would hear from Veon's brother and the head of the development company and it would be their word against Foreman's.

Another charge against Veon is that BIG, which Veon founded, paid $19,000 in rent for an additional office on Pittsburgh's South Side above a cigar store. BIG never staffed the office, Brandstetter said. A legislative intern was housed there temporarily.

Raynak said BIG had an incredible number of projects in Allegheny County.

A former state legislator, Rep. Terry Van Horne, received a $5,000 check from BIG but never did any work for the non-profit, prosecutors say. Van Horne died recently.

BIG funds were also used for an additional legislative office in Midland.

Raynak said it was all taxpayer money and Veon could have, as a legislative leader, obtained whatever he needed in state money for the Midland office.

"If Mr. Veon wanted 30 district offices he literally could have gotten the money," Raynak said.

"Are the taxpayers actually losing a penny?" Raynak asked.

Michael Palermo, attorney for Veon's co-defendant Annamarie Perretta-Rosepink, said the government would have to prove she had criminal intent as a person who wrote BIG checks and also headed Veon's district office in Beaver Falls. Rosepink, he said, had no criminal intent.

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February 16th, 2012 at 5:25 pm