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Second person names ex-Pittsburgh police chief bid-rigging mastermind

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Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Christine Kebr stands outside the Federal Courthouse as her attorney fields questions from the media Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014. She was sentenced to three years probation for her role in a bid-rigging scheme.

Two people convicted and sentenced in a city bid-rigging scandal claim former Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper came up with the idea but he wasn’t charged and his attorneys deny his guilt.

The latest accusations arose from the sentencing on Tuesday of former city employee Christine Kebr, 57, of Castle Shannon. Kebr pleaded guilty in December 2012 to helping businessman Arthur Bedway, 64, of Robinson defraud the federal government on a contract that paid one of his companies, Alpha Outfitters, $327,000 to install laptops in Pittsburgh police cruisers.

U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon sentenced Kebr to three years of probation with the first six months on home detention. She ordered Kebr to pay a $6,000 fine, which is the same amount she accepted from Bedway in bribes.

Kebr went along with the scheme not because of the money but because she believed the previous vendor was doing a shoddy job installing the computers and was putting police officers’ lives at risk, said Gary Gerson, her attorney.

She approached Harper about switching vendors, and he told her “he had someone in mind,” he said.

“It was Chief Harper who was the nexus between Chris Kebr and Arthur Bedway,” Gerson said.

Kebr was effectively a computer nerd caught between two sophisticated men, he said.

“In my opinion, she was a lamb surrounded by wolves,” Gerson said.

Robert Del Greco, one of Harper’s lawyers, said all Harper did was introduce Kebr to Bedway because Bedway said one of his companies could do a better job on the installations. “This is old news, old allegations made by Art Bedway, rejected by the government and now made by her,” Del Greco said.

He pointed out that Kebr took money from Bedway. While Bedway and his lawyer, Martin Dietz, claim Harper took $9,000, the former chief denies that, he said.

“Nate Harper never took a cent from Art Bedway,” Del Greco said.

Kebr declined comment after the hearing.

Kebr told Bissoon that she turned down the first $3,000 that Bedway tried to give her, but when he insisted, she accepted it and gave it to a brother who was having medical and financial problems.

“It was the stupidest thing I did in my life,” she said.

She also gave the second $3,000 bribe to her brother, Kebr said. She said Bedway, Harper and she met several times during the scheme.

Bedway pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy, bribery and mail fraud. Bissoon in January sentenced him to three years of probation.

The investigation of the contract led to a wider investigation of police bureau operations and the resignation of Harper.

Harper has since pleaded guilty to charges of tapping into secret police accounts for personal use and failing to file income tax returns. Bissoon has scheduled Harper’s sentencing for Feb. 25.

Staff writer Jeremy Boren contributed to this report. Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or [email protected].

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