Former gas drilling exec pleads guilty over thefts

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PITTSBURGH (AP) – The former chief operating officer of a western Pennsylvania drilling company has pleaded guilty to conspiracy, mail fraud and income tax fraud over more than $9 million he stole from Falcon Drilling LLC.

Larry Dean Winckler will be sentenced May 30 by a federal court judge. His attorney and federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh agree that he will likely spend more than five years in prison for the crimes against the company in Indiana County.

Winckler acknowledged Tuesday that he had checks written to himself from the company’s bank accounts and that he and another company official sent bogus letters to auditors claiming to not know anything about the stolen money.

Winckler’s attorney Martin Dietz says “every penny” of the thefts was driven by Winckler’s casino gambling addiction.

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