Retired Air Force colonel object of federal fraud probe
By Torsten Ove | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Published: January 29, 2014
The Air Force has completed a financial fraud investigation into the conduct of a former top officer at the 171st Air Refueling Wing at Pittsburgh International Airport and turned over its results to the Justice Department.
The Air Force confirmed that its probe of Col. Gerard Mangis, 60, former vice wing commander of the 171st, is in the hands of federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh.
The U.S. attorney's office declined comment, as did Col. Mangis's lawyer, Charles Porter.
Col. Mangis, who resigned from the 171st in September 2011 after 31 years there and now works for Allegheny County, acknowledged Tuesday that he has been under investigation since March 2011 and resigned because of it.
But he declined comment on any specifics on the advice of Mr. Porter.
The case, which focuses on allegations that Col. Mangis enriched himself by routinely padding his pay above his base annual salary of $128,000, is being handled by assistant U.S. attorney Gregory Melucci, who specializes in fraud.
The investigation developed after the Air Force began looking into allegations of double-dipping by Air Force pilots in California. The pilots were accused of boosting their salaries by signing up for extra "alert duty," violating federal law and military regulations prohibiting collecting more than one payday on the same calendar day.
Those accusations triggered an ongoing investigation by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and a review of bases across the country, including the 171st.
The Mangis case, conducted by OSI and later the Pittsburgh FBI, started with an examination of complaints about Col. Mangis lodged by subordinates and dating to his time as vice wing commander from 2006 to 2009, when he became mission support group commander.
The initial investigation was conducted by Brig. Gen. Timothy Hilty, who according to internal documents interviewed 171st personnel but never spoke to Col. Mangis.
Gen. Hilty, based out of Pennsylvania National Guard headquarters in Harrisburg, did not return a message yesterday. A guard spokesman said the general is not allowed to comment.
According to internal records and email exchanges, Gen. Hilty investigated six allegations against Col. Mangis in which he was accused of conducting personal business on duty and coercing subordinates to run personal errands for him.
Gen. Hilty substantiated the complaints, according to records, after which Col. Mangis resigned.
But the most serious charge, in which he was accused of padding his pay over five years, perhaps by as much as $300,000, was turned over to OSI as a potential criminal matter.
When the FBI joined the case this summer, Col. Mangis hired Mr. Porter, his neighbor, in anticipation that the case could go before a federal grand jury.
If Col. Mangis is convicted, he will likely lose his military pension, his colonel's rank and his job as a budget analyst with the county's facilities management department.
Col. Mangis, who lives in Shaler with his wife and two daughters, grew up in Highland Park and joined the Air Force in 1974. After active duty in Hawaii and Japan, he returned to Pittsburgh and earned his degree in business administration from La Roche College.
He joined the Air National Guard in 1980 and went to work at the 171st as a pay clerk.
He worked as a budget officer until 1997, when he became base comptroller and executive support officer. In 2006 he became vice wing commander, the No. 2 officer in charge of the base, and in 2008 was promoted to colonel.
In 2009, following an internal shakeup, he switched to a new role as mission support group commander.
After his resignation from the Air Force in 2011, he joined the Coast Guard as a budget analyst, spending 18 months in that job. He then applied for his current job with the county.