Archive for Friday, February 27, 2004

Wittig sentenced to 4 years, three months in fraud case

February 27, 2004


— Former Wester Energy Inc. chief executive David Wittig was sentenced Friday to more than four years in prison for his part in a federal loan-conspiracy case stemming from two transactions at a Topeka bank.

Wittig was found guilty on July 14 of conspiracy, four counts of making false bank entries and one count of money laundering. The charges were unrelated to Westar business.

His co-defendant, former banker Clinton Odell Weidner II, was sentenced on Thursday to 6 1/2 years in prison in the same scheme.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson sentenced Wittig to four years and three months in prison on each count; the sentences will run concurrently. The judge also fined Wittig $1 million, and ordered him to spend three years on supervised release after completing his prison term.

Robinson did not order Wittig taken into custody Friday; he will be allowed to voluntarily surrender to federal authorities. The judge also declined to immediately rule on a request from Wittig's attorney that he be allowed to remain free on bond pending an appeal of his conviction.

Weidner was president of Topeka's Capital City Bank, where he served as Wittig's personal loan officer. The case involved two transactions at the bank in April 2001.

Weidner approved a $1.5 million increase in Wittig's personal line of credit at the bank so Wittig could lend the money to Weidner for a real estate investment in Scottsdale, Ariz. The government said Wittig loaned Weidner the $1.5 million in return for his help in making $20 million worth of bank loans available to Westar executives.

Prosecutors said the scheme worked this way: First, Wittig's personal credit line was increased -- at his request and on Weidner's recommendation -- by $1.5 million. Hours later, $1.5 million was transferred from Wittig's account directly into a real estate project in which Weidner was investing near Scottsdale, Ariz.

On Thursday, ruled that Weidner must forfeit all proceeds from the land deal. The loan from Capital City Bank has been repaid.

At the request of his attorney, Robinson agreed to recommend Wittig serve his sentence at the federal prison camp in Allenwood, Pa. The federal Bureau of Prisons usually follows such recommendations.

Meanwhile, Wittig faces a separate 40-count federal indictment accusing him and former Westar executive vice president Douglas Lake of committing conspiracy, fraud and other crimes. Prosecutors allege Wittig and Lake tried to loot Westar, the state's largest electric utility.

Each man is charged with 39 felonies -- one count of conspiracy; 14 counts of circumventing corporate controls; eight counts of wire fraud; 10 counts of providing false statements to government agencies; and six counts of money laundering. A 40th count seeks to have them forfeit assets to the government.

Trial in that case is scheduled for Sept. 7.

Wittig and Lake are also in arbitration with Westar over their former employment contracts. Wittig claims he is owed $110 million and Lake, $70 million.

In his claim, Wittig said Westar Energy "spins a fanciful tale" of misconduct as part of an effort to bolster its stock price and deflect scrutiny of the company. Wittig said Westar has tried to make him a "convenient scapegoat" for problems faced by the company.

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