Ex-Georgia DOT Supervisor sentenced to 4.5 Years in Federal Prison for bribery for allowing dumping that resulted in environmental damage
ATLANTA - George H. Bell, former Georgia Department of Transportation (“G-DOT”) Assistant Area Maintenance Foreman, was sentenced today to four and a half years’ imprisonment for accepting bribe payments in exchange for allowing more than 2,600 dump truckloads of unsuitable dirt to be dumped in DeKalb County, resulting in substantial environmental damage and more than $1.5 million in clean-up costs.
“For less than $15,000 in bribes, Bell abused his supervisory position with the G-DOT by allowing others to dump massive amounts of unsuitable dirt throughout DeKalb County,” said U.S. Attorney John A. Horn. “Bell’s greed and willingness to compromise the trust of his public office has left all Georgians with environmental damage and a clean-up tab of more than $1.5 million.”
“This case serves as a reminder that public corruption has consequences. The consequences for Mr. Bell in betraying the public’s trust and violating established regulations and policy is a lengthy federal prison sentence. The consequences for the public in which Mr. Bell was supposed to have been serving is $1.5 million in unanticipated and non-budgeted clean-up costs,” said George Crouch, Acting Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office.
“It is paramount that public officials committing crimes be held accountable for their actions. The investigation and prosecution of public corruption is a priority for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The GBI will continue to work with our state and federal partners to ensure that public corruption cases are aggressively pursued,” said Vernon Keenan, Director, Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
“Georgia DOT has cooperated fully with all agencies involved in the investigation to ensure that those responsible for illegal actions are held accountable,” said Commissioner Russell McMurry. “We are appalled by the corrupt actions of this individual that in no way reflect the hard work and commitment displayed by more than 4,100 GDOT employees. We have worked diligently to correct the damage to the impacted sites.”
According to U.S. Attorney Horn, the charges and other information presented in court: Bell worked for G-DOT for approximately 15 years. By the end of his career, Bell served G-DOT in a supervisory role as an Assistant Area Maintenance Foreman. In that capacity, Bell oversaw various maintenance projects under the control of G-DOT, including repairs of Georgia roadway system and general maintenance activities.
From approximately April to December 2014, Bell accepted cash bribe payments from the owners of a dirt hauling company (“Dirt Company”). In exchange for those bribe payments, Bell allowed the Dirt Company to dump unsuitable dirt at various G-DOT locations in DeKalb County, Georgia. Unsuitable dirt is dirt that has been removed during construction or landscaping projects that cannot be built upon in the future. In this case, the dirt contained construction debris, including nails, concrete and asphalt fragments, and various pieces of metal.
In April 2014, the Dirt Company asked Bell if G-DOT would accept multiple loads of dirt. Bell allowed the unsuitable dirt to be dumped at G-DOT site, but then charged the Dirt Company $600 to dump the dirt. Bell used G-DOT personnel and equipment to spread the dirt after the Dirt Company had dumped it. After that, Bell and the Dirt Company agreed that the Dirt Company would pay Bell $5 per load (if the Dirt Company spread the dirt itself) and $7 per load (if Bell used G-DOT personnel and equipment to spread the dirt). For several months thereafter, Bell accepted bribe payments from the Dirt Company in exchange for allowing it to dump illegally unsuitable dirt at G-DOT locations. In total, the Dirt Company paid Bell almost $15,000 in bribe payments.
Bell allowed the Dirt Company to dump over 2,600 dump truck loads of unsuitable dirt at the G-DOT sites located at: (1) Stone Mountain Highway and Hugh Howell Road, in Stone Mountain; (2) North Decatur Road and I-285, in DeKalb County; (3) 805 George Luther Drive, in DeKalb County; and (4) Chamblee Dunwoody Road and I-285, in DeKalb County. Overall, Bell permitted over 30,000 cubic yards of dirt to be dumped at the G-DOT sites. Unfortunately, Bell also allowed the Dirt Company to dump some dirt in a protected wetland and at a location where the dirt entered Stone Mountain Lake. Based on the massive amount of unsuitable dirt that Bell allowed to be dumped, the clean-up costs associated with his criminal acts exceeded $1.5 million.
On April 15, 2016, Bell, 50, of Lithonia, Georgia, pleaded guilty to conspiring to accept bribes. He was sentenced to four years, six months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $1,553,184 in restitution.
This case was investigated by the Federal and Georgia Bureaus of Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey W. Davis and former Assistant United States Attorney Jamie L. Mickelson prosecuted the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.