Saturday, August 26, 2000

Official admits stealing from Cancer Society

Ex-official awaits sentencing for $8M theft

By Charley Gillespie
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — A former American Cancer Society official must wait to learn his punishment after admitting Friday that he stole nearly $8 million from the charity. The defense expects a prison sentence of no more than nine years, but prosecutors say the term depends on how much of the remaining money is recovered.

        Daniel Wiant, 35, admitted bank fraud, money laundering, mail fraud and illegal use of a credit card in the thefts that began in 1997. He was chief administrative officer for six years at the agency's Ohio division, based in the suburb of Dublin.

        “His primary victim is an organization that affects a lot of people,” U.S. Attorney Sharon Zealey said. “Eight million dollars would go a long way for cancer victims.”

        Authorities say Mr. Wiant secretly transferred $6.9 million to a bank in Austria in May. He fled to Switzerland and Austria on June 2, but returned to the United States a week later and surrendered.

        The $6.9 million eventually was returned, but authorities said Friday that $932,000 of the stolen money has not been recovered. Mr. Wiant used some of the money to pay for an addition, a deck and landscaping at his home in Raymond.

        A sentencing date was not set, and Mr. Wiant remained in custody.

        “I have extremely deep regret for my action as well as the damage I have done to the American Cancer Society,” he said in a written statement.

        Defense attorney Victor Merullo has estimated Mr. Wiant will get five to nine years, based on federal guidelines.

        Ms. Zealey acknowledged it is unlikely Mr. Wiant will get the maximum possible sentence of 30 years and a $1 million fine but said prosecutors will argue for the stiffest term available under sentencing guidelines.


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