President of Purcellville Company Pleads Guilty to Virginia Regional Transit Bribery Conspiracy
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Thomas Eugene Ahalt, 71, of Berryville, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit bribery concerning federal program funds for his role in a bribery scheme that caused over $500,000 in losses to the U.S. government.
According to the statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, Ahalt has served as the President of Mobile Auto Truck Repair (Mobile Auto), an automotive repair business in Purcellville, since 2007. Mobile Auto provided repair services to Virginia Regional Transit (VRT), a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides transportation services throughout Northern Virginia. VRT is funded by a combination of federal, state and local grants, including from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
According to the plea agreement, Ahalt participated in two fraud schemes from January 2007 through December 2015. In the first scheme, Ahalt and M.M., a former chief executive officer of VRT, agreed Mobile Auto would submit—and VRT would approve—false invoices for certain labor charges. In exchange, Ahalt would make bi-weekly kickback payments to M.M. totaling half of the additional labor charges. Accordingly, between 2007 and 2015, M.M. approved and VRT paid to Mobile Auto approximately $380,000 in fraudulent additional labor charges. During the same period, Ahalt gave M.M. approximately $190,000 in illegal kickback payments.
In addition to the kickback payment scheme, Ahalt also regularly caused Mobile Auto to submit false invoices to VRT for parts and labor associated with maintaining VRT vehicles. Ahalt, for example, frequently added fictitious entries to invoices for repairs that had not occurred and for parts that had not been installed. Mobile Auto submitted at least $136,000 in false invoices to VRT between 2012 and 2015. VRT subsequently paid these false invoices using, in part, federal funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Ahalt faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when sentenced on June 21. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; Floyd Sherman, Regional Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee. Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye is prosecuting the case.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:16-cr-79.