PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A former top executive of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia pleaded guilty today in federal court in Philadelphia to embezzling $1.7 million from the hospital.

Roosevelt Hairston pleaded guilty to mail fraud, money laundering, and filing a false tax return.   The government contended that he devised a scheme to embezzle money from the hospital by creating fraudulent invoices, fake companies, and phony bank accounts.

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Prosecutors says things started to look fishy last summer and an investigation was launched by the hospital and others (see previous stories).

Hairston was living large, according to federal prosecutors: a big house on the Main Line, luxury cars, a yacht — and a captain for the yacht.

Trouble was, officials charged, he was paying for it with money he embezzled through an elaborate scheme in which he submitted phony invoices to CHOP and paid himself for the made-up work.

Prosecutors say Hairston, 46, confessed the first time they interviewed him about the bogus bills.  And his attorney, Howard Bruce Klein, said Hairston planned to plead guilty and agree to pay full restitution to the hospital in addition to whatever sentence the court imposes.

“We feel that’s something that should be considered along with the other facts of the case, and we’ll be stressing that in seeking a variance from the sentencing guidelines,” Klein told KYW Newsradio earlier.

Klein says his client has accepted responsibility for his actions and Klein will argue for lenient sentencing:

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“At sentencing we plan to stress the extraordinary community and charitable commitments and service that characterize Roosevelt’s entire adult life.”

And Klein, says he disagrees with the prosecution painting his client as living in the lap of luxury with the money.

“In reality, he was involved with community and public service activities almost all of his free time, to the extent that he had a boat that was used primarily for entertainment for charitable events, a lot of times for CHOP,” says Klein, who says most of the Hairston took went to two failed real estate ventures.

Sentencing is scheduled for October 13th.  Bail was set at $700,000 and Hairston was released on his own recognizance.

Hairston faces up to 43 years in prison, more than $1 million in fines, and full restitution to the hospital.

Reported by John McDevitt and Pat Loeb, KYW Newsradio 1060

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