|USA Harvest founder competent to stand trial||| Print ||
|Written by BRETT BARROUQUERE, Associated Press|
|Wednesday, 18 December 2013 14:49|
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the founder of USA Harvest is competent to stand trial on charges of tax evasion mail fraud and money laundering, accused of using funds from the volunteer organization for personal expenses.
U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley concluded that the case prosecutors are bringing against 63-year-old Hugh "Stan" Curtis is primarily based on documents such as tax returns and other recorded evidence and can easily be reconstructed without relying on Curtis' memory or assistance. McKinley also noted that "all indications are that government's case is strong."
"Even complete amnesia is not a bar to prosecution if the defendant is otherwise competent," McKinley wrote in a two-page ruling.
USA Harvest uses volunteers to pick up surplus food from restaurants, hotels, hospitals and various other food suppliers. The food is delivered to missions, soup kitchens, shelters and people in need.
Curtis is charged with taking $183,354 from the charity and charging another $370,000 in personal travel expenses. He has been in poor health since being charged in September 2012.
The case has been pending for nearly 15 months as Curtis has battled health issues and his attorney has sought to have him declared incompetent because of his illnesses.
No trial date has been set.
A doctor for the prosecution and one hired by Curtis' lawyers agreed that his health is improving, but split on whether or not Curtis could assist with any defense or understand the ramifications of a guilty plea. U.S. Magistrate Judge Dave Whalin previously found Curtis competent, but defense attorney Scott Cox appealed the ruling to McKinley.
Curtis, who founded the organization in 1989 as Kentucky Harvest of Louisville, faces charges of mail fraud, money laundering and filing false income tax returns. None of the charities Curtis has been associated with were implicated in any wrongdoing.
Curtis had been scheduled to plead guilty in December 2012, but the hearing was delayed after questions about his competency.
Prosecutors said from September 2005 through September 2007, Curtis failed to report to the Internal Revenue Service about $553,891.67 in personal income he received from USA Harvest. The amount includes the $183,354 in stolen donations and $370,537.67 in personal travel expenses that he charged to USA Harvest.
Prosecutors say Curtis used the USA Harvest funds to pay for personal meals, personal entertainment expenses, and personal travel. In addition, prosecutors say, Curtis fraudulently deducted approximately $353,165 in unreimbursed USA Harvest travel expenses on his 2005 through 2007 returns.
On the website of USA Harvest, Curtis said the charity serves more than 5,400 agencies nationwide.
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