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Archive for Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Judge will allow Wittig to stay free during his appeal

March 31, 2004

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— A federal judge is allowing David Wittig to remain free while he appeals his federal fraud convictions.

Wittig, the former chairman and chief executive officer at Westar Energy Inc., the state's largest electric utility, was convicted in July of conspiracy, money laundering and making false bank entries. He was sentenced to four years and three months in prison.

Wittig and former Topeka banker Clinton Odell Weidner II were convicted of hiding a $1.5 million loan from federal regulators.

Prosecutors said Weidner increased Wittig's line of credit at Capital City Bank by $1.5 million and then received that amount in a personal loan from Wittig.

Weidner, former president of the bank, used the money to invest in a residential development in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Wittig is appealing his case to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson granted Wittig's request to remain free on $5,000 bond while that appeal is pending.

In a ruling Friday, Robinson said Wittig's appeal would raise "substantial questions of law." Robinson also concluded that Wittig isn't a danger to the community, isn't a flight risk and his appeal isn't a delay tactic.

Wittig is prohibited from buying, selling or transferring property or money valued at $25,000 or more without first notifying the U.S. Attorney's Office and the U.S. Probation Office and receiving the judge's approval.

Weidner, who also is appealing his case, was denied his request to remain free on bail. He has been sentenced to six years and six months in prison. In addition to being convicted on four of six charges, he pleaded guilty to two other charges.

In another federal case, Wittig and Douglas T. Lake, a former Westar executive vice president, have been charged with 40 counts of conspiracy, unlawful transactions, making false claims, wire fraud and falsifying books and records during their tenure with the energy company. Their trial is scheduled to start Sept. 7.

Wittig resigned as Westar's CEO in November 2002. A month later, Westar's directors placed Lake on an indefinite and unpaid leave.

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