AG Shapiro Announces Charges against Pittsburgh Lobbyist for Stealing $100,000 from Small Businesses

August 13, 2019 | Topic: Criminal

Joseph Kuklis of Wellington Strategies Falsely Promised Government Grants for Small Business Owners

HARRISBURG—Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced charges against a Pittsburgh lobbyist for stealing more than $100,000 from Pennsylvania small businesses. Joseph Kuklis, 48, of Pittsburgh, was charged with Corrupt Organizations, Deceptive or Fraudulent Business Practices, Forgery, and Theft by Deception on Monday. The defendant is a lobbyist who operates a Pittsburgh government consulting firm called Wellington Strategies.

The Office of Attorney General opened an investigation into the defendant’s practices following a referral from the Office of General Counsel. The investigation found that beginning in early 2017, Kuklis would charge small-business owners a consulting fee with a promise to obtain grant funding for them through the Pennsylvania Department of Economic Development (DCED). He forged documents from DCED to make it appear as if these businesses applied for grant monies and won. When they called to collect their awards, DCED informed them that they not only did not win the grants, but that Kuklis never submitted their applications in the first place.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy across the Commonwealth, and they deserve to be supported, not scammed,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “The defendant falsely promised small business owners that he would obtain badly-needed grant money for them, but instead he used their money to line his own pockets. Today, my Office put a stop to his criminal behavior and we continue to work tirelessly to hold him accountable to the hardworking business owners of Pennsylvania.”

In most cases, Kuklis never returned the money that he received. These businesses paid the defendant in excess of $100,000. They include: (1) Pittsburgh Technical College; (2) Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream; (3) Digital Dream Labs; (4) Blank Concrete and Supplies; (5) Innovatus Imaging; and (6) IRA Logix, Inc.

This investigation is ongoing and there may be additional victims. If you are a small business owner who thinks you might have been a victim of Joseph Kuklis, please call the Office of Attorney General at 412-880-0464.

The defendant turned himself in to police today. Senior Deputy Attorney General Patrick Schulte will prosecute the case. All charges discussed are accusations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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