Former D.C. Government Employee Pleads Guilty In Bribery Scheme Involving Towing Company
Defendant Admits Accepting Over $35,000 From Owner of Towing Firm
WASHINGTON –Vernita M. Greenfield, a former customer services representative for the District of Columbia’s Department of Public Works, pled guilty today to a federal charge stemming from a scheme in which she accepted more than $35,000 in bribes in return for giving favorable treatment to a towing company.
The plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips, Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and Daniel W. Lucas, Inspector General for the District of Columbia.
Greenfield, 56, of Washington, D.C., was arrested by the FBI at her office on Nov. 23, 2015. She pled guilty to a charge of receipt of a bribe by a public official. The charge carries a statutory maximum of 15 years in prison and potential financial penalties. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Greenfield faces a likely range of 24 to 30 months in prison and a fine of $10,000 to $95,000. She also is subject to a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of $35,300. The Honorable Senior Judge Paul L. Friedman scheduled sentencing for July 19, 2016.
“This government employee took advantage of her position for her own financial gain,” said U.S. Attorney Phillips. “The prosecution of this case reflects our commitment to rooting out corruption whenever it exists, as it is imperative for citizens to have faith in their government.”
“Ms. Greenfield admitted in federal court today to unfairly steering towing contracts in exchange for monetary bribes. Through her actions, she violated the public’s trust for her own personal gain,” said Assistant Director in Charge Abbate. “The FBI will continue to investigate and fight public corruption at all levels of government, including unfair, preferential treatment at the expense of honest American businesses.”
“I would like to recognize the efforts of the D.C. OIG Investigations Unit in conducting this investigation that has ultimately brought Ms. Greenfield to justice,” said Inspector General Lucas. “This investigation is just one example of how the D.C. OIG, along with our oversight partners, continue to combat corruption, fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement within the District, and aggressively pursue prosecution and/or administrative action when and where warranted.”
According to a statement of offense submitted in the plea proceedings, Greenfield worked in the Parking Enforcement Management Administration, a branch of the Department of Public Works. The branch is responsible for the removal of abandoned and dangerous vehicles, as well as ticketing, towing, booting, and impoundment of vehicles that are in violation of District of Columbia parking regulations. The branch also tows vehicles that pose a danger to the police or that impede the flow of traffic, particularly after vehicle accidents.
The branch uses a computer-aided dispatch system in which customer services representatives communicate with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) when police determine vehicles need to be towed. However, the Department of Public Works did not have enough tow trucks in its fleet to meet demand. The Department of Public Works subcontracted towing services from a list of approximately 22 authorized tow truck companies to assist with vehicle removals. Customer Services representatives were required to rotate assignments so that all towing services were fairly distributed in an equitable manner.
In her guilty plea, Greenfield admitted disregarding the rotational towing assignment system to send extra business to a towing company that was among the 22 on the list. According to the statement of offense, on or about July 1, 2011, Greenfield and the owner of the towing company came to an agreement that the owner would deposit between $200 and $500 per week into Greenfield’s bank account. In exchange, she agreed to divert towing assignments from other companies on the rotational list, thereby increasing his company’s weekly towing assignments and profits. She provided the towing company owner with her bank account information.
From July 2011 through May 2013, according to the statement of offense, the towing company’s owner provided Greenfield with more than 60 such payments, totaling $35,300. During this time period, Greenfield diverted over 450 towing assignments to the company to which it was not entitled, depriving other companies of this valuable business.
In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Phillips, Assistant Director in Charge Abbate, and Inspector General Lucas commended the work of those who investigated the case from the FBI’s Washington Field Office. They also expressed appreciation for those who investigated the case from the District of Columbia Office of the Inspector General, including Special Agent Ray Malengo. Finally, they acknowledged the efforts Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mervin A. Bourne, Jr. and Lionel André, who are prosecuting the case.