LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — A federal judge on Thursday ruled that the founder of the food charity USA Harvest is competent to face charges that he used money from the organization for personal expenses.
The lawyer for 63-year-old Hugh "Stan" Curtis said he will appeal U.S. Magistrate Judge Dave Whalin's decision, further delaying a case that's been ongoing for nearly 15 months. Attorney Scott Cox says Curtis is not in a condition to go forward with the case.
Cox and prosecutors have a total of 35 working days to file motions before U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley takes the appeal under advisement.
"He's not in a position to enter a plea today," Cox said.
Curtis is charged with taking $183,354 from the charity and charging another $370,000 in personal travel expenses. He has been in poor health since being charged in September 2012.
Whalin's decision came a week after he heard testimony from two doctors who examined Curtis. A doctor for the prosecution and one hired by Curtis' lawyers agreed that his health is improving, but split on whether or not Curtis could assist with any defense or understand the ramifications of a guilty plea.
Whalin sided with the prosecution psychologist, saying the judgment was based on more extensive experience by the doctor.
"He currently has the ability to reasonably assist his attorney with a rational degree of understanding," Whalin ruled.
Curtis, who founded the organization in 1989 as Kentucky Harvest of Louisville, faces charges of mail fraud, money laundering and filing false income tax returns. None of the charities Curtis has been associated with were implicated in any wrongdoing.
USA Harvest uses volunteers to pick up surplus food from restaurants, hotels, hospitals and various other food suppliers. The food is delivered to missions, soup kitchens, shelters and people in need.
Curtis had been scheduled to plead guilty in December 2012, but the hearing was delayed after questions about his competency.
Prosecutors said from September 2005 through September 2007, Curtis failed to report to the Internal Revenue Service about $553,891.67 in personal income he received from USA Harvest. The amount includes the $183,354 in stolen donations and $370,537.67 in personal travel expenses that he charged to USA Harvest.
Prosecutors say Curtis used the USA Harvest funds to pay for personal meals, personal entertainment expenses, and personal travel. In addition, prosecutors say, Curtis fraudulently deducted approximately $353,165 in unreimbursed USA Harvest travel expenses on his 2005 through 2007 returns.
On the website of USA Harvest, Curtis said the charity serves more than 5,400 agencies nationwide.
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