Baltimore City Landfill Supervisor and Three Other Defendants Sentenced to Prison in Bribery and Illegal Salvaging Schemes
City Lost Over $7 Million in Two Longstanding Schemes in Which Commercial Trash Haulers Paid Bribes to Dump Trash Without Paying Disposal Fees and Employees Stole Salvageable Metals
Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis sentenced William Charles Nemec, Sr., age 56, of Baltimore, today to 78 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for conspiracy and bribery in connection with two schemes: one in which Department of Public Works (DPW) employees sought and accepted cash payments from commercial haulers in return for allowing the haulers to deposit trash at the Quarantine Road Landfill without paying the required disposal fees (bribery scheme); and a second scheme in which DPW employees stole scrap metal from the landfill for personal gain (the junking scheme). Judge Garbis also entered an order that Nemec pay restitution of $6 million.
On February 1, 2016, Judge Garbis sentenced two commercial haulers for their participation in the bribery scheme: Adam Williams, Jr., age 52, of Randallstown, to one year in prison followed by two years of community confinement with work release; and Larry Lowry, age 61, of Orchard Beach, Maryland, to 30 months in prison. Judge Garbis also entered an order that Williams pay restitution of $900,000, and Lowry pay restitution of $180,000.
Yesterday, Judge Garbis sentenced Michael Theodore Bennett, age 46, of Baltimore, an employee at the Baltimore City Landfill, to 46 months in prison and entered an order that Bennett pay restitution of $400,000. Bennett had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal from a program receiving federal funds, wire fraud and failure to file a tax return in connection with the junking scheme.
The sentences were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Kevin Perkins of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; 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.
Individuals or companies commercially hauling trash that have registered their vehicles with Baltimore City and obtained Landfill permits, as well as Baltimore City residents with larger loads, must deposit their trash in an open area located 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. 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. The scale house operators reweigh each truck as it leaves the Landfill.
According to the defendants’ plea agreements, Nemec started working in 1984 for the DPW as a scale house cashier at the Cold Spring Lane Landfill. Back then, Nemec and other cashiers would regularly accept bribes from small and large haulers in lieu of charging disposal fees and then split the bribe money among all the cashiers. That same year, Nemec was transferred to the Quarantine Road Landfill (Landfill) where he engaged in the same type of bribery scheme. Except for short periods of time over the years since 1984, and despite the comings and goings of new scale house employees and supervisors at the Landfill, Nemec and other scale house operators continued to execute the bribery scheme, even after Nemec was promoted to a supervisory position at the Landfill in 2006, and until his arrest on May 12, 2015.
Beginning around 2002, Nemec executed the bribery scheme in tandem with two scale house operators. Nemec and the scale house operators accepted $100 bribe payments from large haulers for each truckload of trash dumped at the Landfill, which saved the haulers many hundreds of dollars per trip to the Landfill. Nemec 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, Nemec and others would hand the truck drivers fake or blank receipts when they crossed the outbound scale. In return, the commercial haulers, including Larry Lowry and Adam Williams, either paid the $100 bribe through the outbound window at the scale house or met with Nemec 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. Nemec and the two scale house operators split the bribes three ways until Nemec became a supervisor, after which they agreed that Nemec would collect and keep Lowry’s bribes as Nemec’s share of the scheme, and Washington and the other employee would collect and keep the bribes paid by the other haulers as their share of the scheme.
By paying the $100 bribes in lieu of the disposal fees to Nemec and other scale house operators, the commercial haulers saved their businesses thousands of dollars each month, which, in turn, cost the City of Baltimore more than $6 million in revenue. For example, from July 1, 2014 through May 1, 2015 alone, Nemec, while working as a landfill supervisor, accepted more than $15,000 in bribe payments from Larry Lowry in return for not charging Lowry approximately $55,000 in required waste disposal fees. Similarly, during the same time period, Adam Williams paid more than $42,000 in bribe payments in lieu of paying $120,000 in required waste disposal fees.
Illegal Junking Scheme
In addition to the revenue generated by the collection of disposal fees, Baltimore City’s waste management system generates revenue by collecting and selling recyclable scrap metal dumped at the City’s trash collection facilities, including household appliances, steel cables, copper wires, car parts, computer parts, door and window frames. The City awards contracts to private salvage companies to purchase and remove such scrap metal from its trash collection facilities.
DPW employees at the Landfill and other trash collection sites are required to segregate the recyclable scrap metal from general refuse and place it in separate bins provided by the salvage companies. The companies regularly pick up the scrap metal, weigh it and send a tonnage report to the City. Based on predetermined prices per ton, the City sends an invoice to the companies requesting payment for the value of the scrap metal the companies removed during a given period of time. Salvaging by employees, also referred to as “junking,” was strictly prohibited and employees were put on notice that any salvaging of metal constituted theft of City property.
From about 2005 to May 2015, Nemec and other Landfill employees falsely represented to the DPW that they were performing their jobs when in fact they unlawfully collected and sold scrap metal for personal gain during work hours.
Nemec knew that laborers at the Landfill, including Michael Bennett, used their personal cell phones during work shifts to let each other know when and where recyclable scrap metals were being dumped at the Landfill. After collecting and creating piles of the scrap metal, the laborers would transport the scrap metal using their personal pick-up trucks to a private salvage company, frequently making multiple trips during an eight-hour work shift. Bennett and other employees paid other DPW employees to help locate, collect and load the scrap metal onto their trucks.
During 2011 and 2012, Bennett paid Nemec approximately $20 every day to allow them to collect and transport the stolen scrap metal. In addition to not reporting Bennett’s daily trips to the salvage company to sell the stolen metal, which some days could take a total of 3 - 4 hours, Nemec would authorize and submit false time and attendance records to conceal the scheme, so that Bennett and other laborers were able to be paid for work they did not perform while stealing the metal.
Bennett prepared and submitted false time and attendance records, which claimed he had been working, when he was instead illegally collecting and selling the scrap metal, resulting in wages being paid to Bennett for work he did not perform.
The loss to the City of Baltimore as a result of the junking scheme was approximately $1 million.
Bennett also failed to report approximately $479,468 of income for tax years 2011 through 2013, the majority of which was obtained from the illegal junking scheme, resulting in a tax loss to the government of $126,273.
To date, five DPW employees and six commercial haulers have been convicted in the schemes.
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 Attorney Martin J. Clarke and Leo J. Wise, who prosecuted the case.