Five Employees of Utility Company Charged in Bribery and Kickback Scheme
Company Managers Allegedly Took Bribes and Kickbacks Worth Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars in Exchange for Steering of Lucrative Contracts
Defendant Complained to Contractor in Code That Bribe Payment was Insufficient: “Sandwich was Light on the Meat”
A criminal complaint was unsealed today in Brooklyn charging Devraj Balbir, Ricardo Garcia, Patrick McCrann, Jevan Seepaul and Richard Zavada, managers employed in the facilitiesdepartment of a New York utility company (the “Company”), with conspiring to violate the Travel Act by accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for steering contracts to certain Long Island-based contractors with whom the Company did business. One contractor (the “Contractor”) secured more than $50 million in facility maintenance contracts from the Company during the time that the Contractor was paying bribes to the defendants. The defendants were arrested today and will make their initial appearances this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge James R. Cho.
Mark J. Lesko, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the arrests and charges.
“As alleged, the defendants made corrupt demands for bribes and kickbacks to line their own pockets and upgrade their lifestyles, while putting the contractors at risk of losing business if they did not comply,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Lesko. “This Office is committed to protecting the integrity of the bidding process and ensuring that businesses compete on a level, honest playing field.”
"Crimes of this nature weaken the integrity of the bidding process and deny consumers the benefit of free and open competition in the marketplace. The FBI will continue to work with the Antitrust Division to ensure fair bidding practices are employed across all sectors of our economy," stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.
As alleged in the complaint, between 2013 and 2020, the defendants solicited and accepted bribes and kickbacks from the owners of the Contractor and other contractors in connection with the awarding of maintenance work contracts for the Company. As managers in the facilities department of the Company, McCrann, Garcia (after May 1, 2019) and Balbir (after May 1, 2020) had the authority to approve “no-bid” contracts valued at less than $50,000. The Contractor understood that if it did not pay bribes, these defendants would award the Company’s work to the Contractor’s competitors. In exchange for the bribe payments, the defendants, including Seepaul and Zavada, also took various steps to assist the Contractor in obtaining contracts from the Company for which there was a bidding process, including providing it with non-public bidding information, circumventing the Company’s competitive bidding process and offering favorable reviews of the Contractor’s work. The Contractor paid bribes to ensure that the defendants did not slow or stop disbursement of project funds to the Contractor, provide negative performance reviews regarding the Contractor’s work, or otherwise claim that the Contractor’s work did not meet contractual specifications. The defendants communicated with the contractors about bribe payments by text messages, among other forms of communication. For example, on September 2, 2016, McCrann texted a contractor, “Sandwich was light on the meat” and that McCrann was “a little concerned,” indicating that a bribe payment had been insufficient. The contractor replied, “I’ll ask for a nice one next time,” indicating that the next bribe payment would be larger.
The illicit payments to the defendants took multiple forms, including cash, purchase of a recreational vehicle, home improvements, landscaping and an overseas vacation. For example, during 2017 and 2018, the Contractor paid tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to Balbir in the form of renovations performed at his residence. Between August 2015 and April 2019, the Contractor also made college tuition payments totaling more than $30,000 for a family member of Garcia. On February 25, 2018, Garcia sent a text message to a contractor containing images of airlines reservations for two individuals in April 2018 from Newark to Dubai and hotel reservation information for a 10-night hotel stay in Dubai for two individuals so that the contractor could pay for the expenses. Financial records obtained during the investigation also revealed that the Contractor paid approximately $100,000 for work performed at Seepaul’s home during 2017.
As part of the investigation, agents recovered approximately $300,000 in cash from a safe deposit box held by Zavada. On November 18, 2020, FBI special agents executed a search warrant at Zavada’s residence in Hicksville, New York, and seized electronic spreadsheets he maintained that contained dates, the amounts of bribe payments, and the names of various entities that provided facilities services to the Company.
The charges in the complaint are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Public Integrity Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Turner Buford, Artie McConnell and Nathan Reilly are in charge of the prosecution.
North Bellmore, New York
Selden, New York
Rockville Centre, New York
Hicksville, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 21-MJ-696