FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
For Information Contact:
Two Former District Department of the Environment Officials Plead Guilty to Federal Bribery Charges
Defendants Admit Demanding $20,000 in Bribes in Exchange
For Covering Up Asbestos Contamination
WASHINGTON - Joe L. Parrish, 52, and Gregory A. Scott, 60, both former inspectors at the District of Columbia Department of the Environment (DDOE), Air Quality Division, pled guilty today to federal charges in a scheme in which they demanded and received $20,000 in cash as bribes for not reporting serious environmental infractions and assessing fines and penalties.
The guilty pleas were announced by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr.; James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; Charles J. Willoughby, Inspector General for the District of Columbia, and David G. McLeod, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division - Philadelphia Area Office.
Parrish, of Windsor Mill, Maryland, and Scott, of Temple Hills, Maryland, each pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to one count of solicitation and receipt of a bribe by a public official. The Honorable Robert L. Wilkins scheduled their sentencings for May 21, 2012. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and potential fines. Under federal sentencing guidelines, the parties have agreed that the applicable range would be 24 to 30 months in prison and possible fines of up to $50,000.
As part of their plea agreements, both men agreed to resign from DDOE and to never seek employment with any federal or local government agency in the future.
Parrish and Scott were arrested September 1, 2011, following an investigation by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the District of Columbia Office of the Inspector General. The EPA later joined the investigation into the defendants’ activities.
“Our government cannot function when public officials exalt personal gain over the public good,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “These environmental inspectors were willing to put public safety and health at risk to line their own pockets with cash. The people of the District of Columbia deserve better.”
“These individuals were entrusted with protecting the health and safety of our community; instead, they defrauded our government and citizens through deceit and bribery,” said Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin. “The FBI is resolved to continue our pursuit of those who commit fraud and, together with our partner agencies, will identify and prosecute those responsible for such criminal activity.”
“Today’s pleas demonstrate not only the significant role of the D.C. Office of the Inspector General in safeguarding the interests of the District and its citizenry but also how it works together with federal entities such as the Office of the United States Attorney, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Environmental Protection Agency,” said Inspector General Willoughby. “Additionally, it demonstrates how District agencies cooperate in assisting the Office of the Inspector General in carrying out its mission. I am and continue to be proud of the office’s special agents in carrying forth this mission and the work that they do every day on behalf of the citizens of the District of Columbia.”
“Governments depend on honest and accurate information about potential pollution problems to ensure the health and safety of its citizens,” said Special Agent in Charge McLeod of the EPA. “Exposure to asbestos can be fatal. So it is reprehensible that in this case two District of Columbia inspectors demanded and received cash as a bribe for not issuing violations related to asbestos abatement. Today’s guilty pleas should serve strong notice to anyone, whether in the private or public sector, who knowingly places communities at risk will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
According to statements of offense signed by the government as well as the defendants, as DDOE inspectors, Parrish’s and Scott’s primary duties and responsibilities included inspecting and monitoring contractors and abatement companies and investigating air quality complaints. They also prepared and submitted reports to DDOE attorneys to take action against those who violated environmental regulations. They were responsible for ensuring that contractors who were removing asbestos did so in a manner that protected the health and safety of the asbestos workers, building occupants and general public, and that all work was done in accordance with D.C. regulations and the federal Clean Air Act.
The charges involve dealings by Parrish and Scott with a general contractor and management company at a 10-story apartment building on P Street SW. The management company had hired the contractor to perform demolition and renovation work at the site.
On August 16, 2011, Parrish and Scott advised the general contractor that serious issues involving asbestos needed to be addressed. In the days that followed, the defendants showed photographs to the general contractor and detailed infractions that they said could result in significant fines. The inspectors then reached a preliminary agreement that the general contractor would pay them $10,000 each to avoid the asbestos-related fines at the site.
On August 23, 2011, a cooperating witness - who worked for the management company that hired the general contractor - called Parrish to set up a meeting that afternoon with Parrish and Scott. That day, at approximately 2 p.m. – just minutes after an earthquake hit the Mid-Atlantic area – Parrish and Scott met with the cooperating witness at the apartment building. The inspectors said they were prepared to submit a report that could lead to proceedings against the management company to collect $280,000 to $300,000 in fines. They also warned that the infractions could be punishable by jail sentences. The inspectors said they were willing to “burn” their report and not inform DDOE attorneys of the infractions, provided they were paid $20,000.
The cooperating witness, who was working with law enforcement, then paid bribes of $2,500 cash each as down payments to Parrish and Scott. The defendants agreed that they would not file their written report and other evidence of infractions with the DDOE.
On September 2, 2011, Parrish and Scott once again met with the cooperating witness at the apartment building to pick up the final $15,000 payment for their agreement to overlook the asbestos-related infractions. During the meeting, the cooperating witness paid Parrish and Scott the $15,000, and the two inspectors were then arrested.
In announcing the pleas, U.S. Attorney Machen, Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin, Inspector General Willoughby, and Special Agent in Charge McLeod praised those who investigated the case from the FBI’s Washington Field Office, the Office of the Inspector General for the District of Columbia, and the EPA’s area enforcement office.
They also commended the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, including Paralegal Specialist Diane Hayes, Legal Assistants Jared Forney and Krishawn Graham, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lionel Andre, who is prosecuting the matter.