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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Pennsylvania

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Nine SEPTA Maintenance Managers and Vendors Charged with Bribery and Fraud in Connection With Multiple Procurement Fraud Schemes

PHILADELPHIA – Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Mark Irvello, 56, of Broomall, PA; Stanley Woloff, 58, of Philadelphia, PA; David Abell, 72, of Chincoteague Island, VA; Stephen Kish, 65, of Philadelphia, PA; Rodney Martinez, 50, of Blackwood, NJ; Jesse Fleck, 43, of Philadelphia, PA; Peter Brauner, 58, of Kintersville, PA; James Turner, 59, of Horsham, PA; and John Brady, 60, of Blue Bell, PA; were charged in separate Criminal Informations with bribery and fraud offenses.

The Informations allege that at various times from 2013 through 2019, management-level employees working in SEPTA’s Bridges and Buildings Department (“BBD”) engaged in bribery and theft schemes with two SEPTA vendors, defendants Mark Irvello of MSI Tool Repair and Supply (“MSI”), located in Upper Darby, PA; and Stanley Woloff of Advantage Industrial Supply (“AIS”), located in Philadelphia, PA. The SEPTA managers alleged to have engaged in the scheme are David Abell, Stephen Kish, Rodney Martinez, Jesse Fleck, Peter Brauner, James Turner, and John Brady.

According to the Informations, the BBD is responsible for maintaining, repairing, and renovating SEPTA facilities throughout the southeastern Pennsylvania region. To facilitate this work, SEPTA issues “procurement cards” (also known as P-Cards) to management-level employees working in the BBD. The P-Cards, which operate as SEPTA credit cards, are to be used for purchasing items needed for the legitimate work of the BBD.

In about 2013, defendant Abell, who was a Senior Director of Maintenance at SEPTA, agreed with defendant Irvello of MSI, and separately, with defendant Woloff of AIS (collectively “the vendors”), to exploit the P-Card system for their mutual benefit. Abell solicited the vendors to provide him with regular cash payments of approximately $1,000 to $2,000 per month. In exchange for those payments, the vendors falsely billed SEPTA through the P-Card system for items that the vendor was not providing to SEPTA. The false charges to SEPTA covered the cash payments to Abell, plus a substantial additional amount to generate fraud proceeds for the vendor. As part of the corrupt deals with the vendors, Abell encouraged other BBD managers to use and continue to use MSI and AIS for SEPTA purchases, growing the vendors’ business with SEPTA. To conceal the scheme, Irvello and Woloff billed SEPTA for items that SEPTA might use, but in fact, did not need at that time, or billed SEPTA for substantially more of certain products than they were actually providing to the agency. The vendors thus combined legitimate with fraudulent billing, making the scheme difficult to detect.

At various times, beginning around 2014, several other SEPTA BBD managers began engaging in similar fraud activity with defendants Irvello and Woloff. Those managers included defendant Martinez, who in 2016 replaced Abell as Senior Director of Maintenance and took over Abell’s legitimate role in SEPTA’s BBD, as well as his role in the fraud and bribery scheme. Martinez regularly solicited cash payments from the vendors under the same arrangement that the vendors had with Abell. The cash payments to Martinez totaled over $144,000.

Other BBD managers, including defendants Kish, Fleck, Brauner, Turner, and Brady, individually solicited the vendors for cash and personal items. The vendors agreed to provide the cash and personal items to the managers, and then fraudulently billed SEPTA to cover the cost of those payments and products and to generate additional fraud proceeds for themselves.

The most prolific participant in this fraud scheme was defendant Kish. Kish had Irvello make over $225,000 in purchases to benefit Kish. In most of these cases, Kish directed Irvello to purchase specific precious metals, particularly gold coins, each worth thousands of dollars. The purchases included several American Gold Eagle Coins, Gold American Buffalo Coins, South African Gold Krugerrand Coins, Canadian Gold Maple Leaf Coins, Royal Canadian Mint Gold Bars, and PAMP Suisse Gold Bars. Defendant Kish is also alleged to have engaged in money laundering for using the proceeds of the scheme to purchase real estate. The other participants in the scheme also obtained numerous personal items, including a $5,000 backhoe attachment for defendant Brauner, ATV equipment for defendant Fleck, and numerous electronics, tools, articles of clothing, and automobile repairs for defendants Turner and Brady.

In connection with this scheme, the vendor companies owned by defendants Irvello and Woloff each became one of SEPTA’s largest billers through the P-Card system. In doing so, Irvello defrauded SEPTA of more than $540,000, and Woloff defrauded SEPTA of more than $330,000.

“Philadelphians deserve public employees who do their jobs honestly, without gaming the system to line their own pockets,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Williams. “At a time when SEPTA is facing significant challenges to continue faithfully serving its riders, many of whom have no other reliable, cost-effective transportation options, the defendants’ alleged actions perpetrating this fraud scheme are the definition of selfish greed.”

“The FBI is committed to tracking down public officials and servants who abuse their positions of trust for personal gain,” said Brian T. Herrick, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “Public corruption erodes citizens' faith in their community servants, and it will continue to be the FBI’s top criminal investigative priority. Today’s indictment sends the message that the FBI will work tirelessly to protect government entities and services from fraud, waste and abuse.”

“SEPTA is a public trust. Employees who engage in fraud violate that trust and will face serious consequences,” said D. James Bannan, the Authority’s Inspector General. “The vast majority of SEPTA’s workforce are honest, hard-working individuals who are dedicated to providing critical public transportation service to our region. We will continue to do right by them, the taxpayers, and the riding public by holding those who engage in illegal activity accountable for their actions.”

If convicted, each defendant faces maximum sentences of at least 20 and as much as 40 years in prison.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with the assistance of SEPTA Office of Inspector General, and is being prosecuted by Deputy United States Attorney Louis D. Lappen. SEPTA’s Internal Audit Division launched an investigation after receiving tips from employees, and the Authority’s Inspector General shared the findings with the FBI.

An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Contact: 
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY’S OFFICE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA 615 Chestnut Street, Suite 1250 Philadelphia, PA 19106 JENNIFER CRANDALL Media Contact 215-861-8300 If you have not done so already, follow @USAO_EDPA and @USAttyWilliams on Twitter to get the most up-to-date information about big cases and community news.
Updated August 11, 2021