Adelphia Swindler Dies In Prison Cell

A former Adelphia Communications Corp. employee who had pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the MSO out of $2.1 million was found dead in his Lehigh County, Pa., prison cell on July 13, according to prison officials.

The dead man’s name was Josepf Steven Horvath, but he went by the false identity of John Wayne Truelove when he worked in Adelphia’s Buffalo, N.Y., office beginning in August 1999 as manager of applications development.

In May, he entered a guilty plea in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. He was awaiting sentencing for several crimes.


Pennsylvania newspapers, including The Morning Call in Allentown, called him a “man of mystery” because investigators found that Horvath had been involved in dozens of crimes and schemes, ranging from suspected arson to claiming to have co-researched a “scholarly” paper on the power of prayer on infertile women.

Investigators found Horvath changed identities frequently, as did his indicted co-conspirator, Daniel Wirth.

The two men met in the 1980s while each was pursuing master’s degrees in parapsychology in California. Both, according to court records, used the name Truelove, who actually died as a child in New York’s Westchester County in 1959.

The 41-year-old Horvath also took the identities of children from other states, and used those appropriated IDs to get jobs, including one with the Pew Charitable Trusts, before he went to work for Adelphia.


At Adelphia, according to the indictment handed down by a Pennsylvania grand jury in February, Horvath submitted bills to accounts payable to pay a consultant who, in reality, was his confederate, Wirth.

The pair caused payment checks to be issued in amounts from $23,000 to $340,000, and sent to a mail drop in Capitola, Calif.

Investigators determined that the money was used to pay for an apartment for Wirth, among other things.

Horvath was arrested after a suspicious fire burned down his home in Upper Saucon, Pa., in 2002.

When he was booked, he gave his name as Joseph Wayne Hessler, which police discovered was a 2-year-old who died in Connecticut in 1957.


That triggered the investigation that revealed a national network of mail drops in various names, as well as bank loans, credit-card accounts and real-estate purchases in a variety of names.

When they entered their pleas May 17, the men forfeited $1 million.

Horvath faced a sentence of up to five years in prison and a possible fine of $250,000 when he returned to court in September.

Officials said he was found dead in his one-man county prison cell with a torn T-shirt knotted around his neck and tied to the upper bunk.