Former official receives ‘fair’ sentence

by Chris Vetter

Michelle Kibiger

Bernard A. Ley, former financial administrator for the Medical School’s Department of Surgery, was sentenced Tuesday to two years of probation, 100 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine for defrauding the University of Minnesota. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge David Doty.
Henry Shea, attorney for the prosecution, said he was happy with the sentence and that it was fair. “It was what we asked for.”
Ley, 47, pleaded guilty Feb. 29 to charges that he conspired to defraud the U.S. government, the University and other institutions. He admitted to diverting federal grant money and double-billing the University for business trips.
Dr. John Najarian and Ley worked in the same department and were accused of similar crimes. As a result of Ley’s cooperation with the federal government, Najarian admitted to double-billing the University for business trips and repaid the school $42,500.
Ley was also a key witness in the Najarian trial. Najarian was acquitted Feb. 21 of 15 charges, including fraud, embezzlement and tax evasion.
The government filed a motion in June asking the U.S. District Court to give Ley a lighter sentence than called for in federal sentencing guidelines. The motion stated that he was very helpful in the investigation of charges against Najarian and therefore deserved leniency.
According to sentencing guidelines, Ley could have faced between 21 and 27 months in prison. However, the motion stated that the government considered Ley’s involvement in the scheme of double-billing for travel expenses to be minor. It called his cooperation with the investigation “substantial and useful.”
“A major factor was his position in the U of M (proceedings),” Shea said about the sentence. “We believed a probation sentence was good in this case…. Prison time was not warranted in this case. So we were happy the judge agreed with us.”
Ley, who has been working at a bowling alley for several months making $5 per hour, will begin a more simple, private life, said his attorney, Michael Colich.
“Hopefully he gets his life back and his financial self back in order,” Colich said. At one point in his 20-year career with the University, Ley was making $45,000 per year.
“I’m very happy with Bernie,” Colich said. “He filled his commitment with the University.”