Baltimore City Landfill Employee Admits to Accepting Bribes from Trash Haulers
City Lost More Than $6 Million in Longstanding Scheme in Which Commercial Trash Haulers Paid Bribes to Dump Trash Without Paying Disposal Fees
Baltimore, Maryland – Former Baltimore City Department of Public Works (DPW) employee Tamara Oliver Washington, age 55, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy and to solicitation of bribes in connection with a 14 year scheme in which DPW employees sought and accepted cash payments from commercial haulers in return for allowing the commercial haulers to deposit trash at the Quarantine Road Landfill (Landfill) without paying the required disposal fees.
The plea agreement was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Robert H. Pearre, Jr., Inspector General, City of Baltimore Office of Inspector General; Special Agent in Charge Thomas Jankowski of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office; and Colonel William M. Pallozzi, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police.
“Corrupt public employees rip off the taxpayers and undermine everyone’s faith in government,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.
The DPW’s Bureau of Solid Waste is responsible for managing Baltimore City’s waste management services, including overseeing citizen drop-off centers, such as the Northwest Transfer Station (NWTS) and the Landfill. Baltimore City’s waste management system generates revenue for the City by collecting and selling recyclable scrap metal dumped at the City’s trash collection facilities. The City contracts with private salvage companies to purchase and remove scrap metal from its trash collection facilities. DPW employees at the Landfill and NWTS are required to place the recyclable scrap metal in separate bins provided by the salvage companies. The salvage companies regularly pick up the scrap metal and, based on predetermined prices per ton, the salvage companies pay the City for the value of the scrap metal.
Baltimore City residents can deposit small amounts of trash and/or recyclables in dumpsters located near the main entrance of the Landfill, free of charge. Individuals or companies commercially hauling trash that have registered their vehicles with the City and obtained Landfill permits, as well as Baltimore City residents with larger loads, must deposit their trash in an open area located further within the Landfill. Commercial haulers of trash that meet certain vehicle weight limitations must, in addition to purchasing a Landfill permit, pay a waste disposal fee of $67.50 per ton of trash deposited at the Landfill.
According to Washington’s plea agreement, Washington was a DPW employee assigned to the scale house at the Landfill. DPW employees assigned as scale house operators weigh each truck as it enters the Landfill, which is recorded on a computerized point-of-sale system. To activate the system and record a particular transaction, DPW employees must enter the tag number of the truck and a corresponding billing code. The scale house operators reweigh each truck as it leaves the Landfill. The net weight of the deposited trash and the required disposal fee is then calculated and printed on a receipt that is handed to the driver.
Beginning in 2001, about three months after getting hired as a scale house operator at the Landfill, Washington started accepting bribe payments from small haulers in lieu of charging them the full disposal fee for using the Landfill. Beginning in 2002, about one year after being hired, Washington started accepting bribe payments from large haulers of trash in lieu of charging them the full disposal fee for using the Landfill. Washington and other scale house employees accepted $100 bribe payments from some haulers for each truckload of trash dumped at the Landfill. Washington participated in the bribery scheme for more than fourteen years, up until her arrest in May 2015.
Washington and others concealed the bribery scheme by not entering a truck’s registration number into the computerized scale system, which meant the transaction was not recorded. Consequently, the transaction would not appear on the scale house’s daily logs and the commercial hauler would not be billed for using the Landfill on that particular occasion. To maintain the pretense that the trucks had been weighed and the disposal fee paid, Washington and others would hand the truck drivers fake or blank receipts when they crossed the outbound scale. In return, the commercial haulers either paid the $100 bribe through the outbound window at the scale house or met with the Defendant or another scale house operator at an off-site location to pay a week’s worth of bribes or more. The commercial haulers always paid the $100 bribes in cash.
By paying the $100 bribes in lieu of the disposal fees, these haulers saved their businesses thousands of dollars each month, which, in turn, cost the City of Baltimore more than $6 million in revenue. From July 1, 2014 through May 1, 2015 alone, Washington accepted on her own behalf, and on behalf of other DPW employees, more than $40,000 in bribe payments from one individual in return for not charging the individual or his company the required waste disposal fees, which totaled approximately $120,000 during that period of time.
Washington has agreed to pay restitution of $6 million.
Washington faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy and 10 years in prison for bribery. U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis has scheduled sentencing for October 20, 2015, at 10:00 a.m.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the FBI, IRS-CI, Baltimore Office of Inspector General, and Maryland State Police for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Martin J. Clarke and Gregory R. Bockin, who are prosecuting the case.