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Archive for Friday, December 3, 2004

Lake says Wittig’s plane use was issue

Former Westar exec points finger at fraud co-defendant

December 3, 2004

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— A former Westar Energy Inc. executive testified Thursday that he was uncomfortable with the personal use of a Westar plane by the company's former chief executive.

Douglas Lake, a former executive vice president at Westar, said under cross-examination that he talked with former Westar chief executive officer David Wittig -- his co-defendant in the federal fraud trial -- before Wittig left for a European trip in 2002.

"I expressed concern about that specific trip," Lake said.

Lake and Wittig are charged in what federal prosecutors call a scheme to loot Topeka-based Westar, the state's largest electrical utility. Each faces 40 counts.

One of the government's allegations is that Wittig and Lake used Westar jets extensively for personal trips and failed to report the perks as taxable income.

On the European trip in question, Wittig and his family flew to destinations in England and France in a Westar-owned Cessna Citation X. Assistant U.S. Atty. Richard Hathaway described the July 2002 trip as a 10-day vacation.

Lake testified that he stopped approving corporate flight logs because he was uncomfortable with Wittig's trip to Europe.

Hathaway also questioned Lake about his use of corporate aircraft, accusing Lake of making more than 140 personal weekend trips to New York aboard Westar planes. Lake disagreed with that total.

In direct questioning Wednesday, Lake testified that he took only 30 personal flights aboard Westar corporate planes. Lake said the 30 flights represented legs of trips and not round trips.

But Hathaway attempted to show, using Lake's appointment calendar from his time at Westar, that Lake took many more personal airplane trips than he acknowledged taking. According to the indictment, the government believes Lake used Westar corporate jets as a shuttle to and from Topeka and his residence in New York.

Thursday morning, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson indicated that testimony may wrap up today. But the length of the remaining cross-examination of Lake may preclude that from happening.

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