Georgia DOT Foreman Pleads Guilty to Allowing Illegal Dumping at Atlanta Sites
George H. Bell, a former Georgia Department of Transportation maintenance foreman, entered a guilty plea in federal court to accepting bribe payments in exchange for allowing more than 38,000 cubic yards of unsuitable dirt to be dumped at DOT sites in metro-Atlanta.
“As a DOT supervisor, Bell accepted thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for allowing others to dump unsuitable dirt, all at the expense of the environment and the people of this district,” said U. S. Attorney John A. Horn. “His criminal conduct resulted in environmental damage and has already left Georgia taxpayers with a staggering $2.5 million clean-up bill.”
“Public corruption comes in many forms but, at its core, established rules and policy are intentionally ignored, often for personal gain. That was the case here and it comes at great expense to the taxpaying public. It is because of the serious consequences as seen here that public corruption remains the FBI’s number one criminal program priority,” said J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office.
“The Georgia DOT reported the issue and has cooperated fully with all agencies involved in the investigation to ensure that all responsible parties are held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for these illegal actions,” said Georgia DOT Commissioner Russell R. McMurry. “We are appalled by the corrupt actions of this lone former employee that in no way reflect the hard work and commitment displayed by more than 4,000 GDOT employees.”
According to U.S. Attorney Horn, the charges and other information presented in court: Bell worked for the Georgia Department of Transportation (“GA DOT”) for approximately 15 years. By the end of his career, Bell served the GA DOT in a supervisory role as an Assistant Area Maintenance Foreman. In that capacity, Bell oversaw various transportation projects under the control of the GA DOT, including the maintenance and repairs of Georgia roadway system.
From approximately April to December 2014, Bell accepted cash bribe payments from the owners of a dirt hauling company that is not identified in court proceedings (“Owners”). In exchange for those bribe payments, Bell allowed the Owners to dump unsuitable dirt at various GA DOT locations around metro-Atlanta. Unsuitable dirt is dirt that is 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 fragments, and various pieces of metal.
More specifically, in April 2014, one of the Owners asked Bell if the GA DOT would accept multiple loads of dirt. Bell allowed the unsuitable dirt to be dumped at a GA DOT site, but then charged the Owner $600 to dump the dirt. Bell used GA DOT personnel and equipment to spread the dirt after the Owners had dumped it. After that, Bell and the Owners agreed that Bell would charge the Owners about $5 per load (if the Owners spread the dirt themselves) and $7 per load (if Bell used GA DOT personnel and equipment to spread the dirt). For several months thereafter, Bell accepted bribe payments from the Owners in exchange for allowing the Owners to illegally dump unsuitable dirt at a GA DOT location. In total, the Owners paid Bell approximately $15,000 in cash bribe payments.
Bell allowed the Owners to dump well over 1000 dump truck loads of unsuitable dirt at the GA DOT sites located at: (1) Hugh Howell Road and Stone Mountain Highway, 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. Bell permitted over 38,000 cubic yards of dirt to be dumped at the GA DOT location near Hugh Howell Road alone. Unfortunately, Bell also allowed the Owners to dump the dirt at a protected wetland site and at a site 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 have already exceeded $2.5 million.
On August 11, 201, Bell, 49, of Lithonia, Georgia, was indicted by a federal grand jury on bribery charges. Under federal law, conspiring to accept bribe payments carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
The sentencing hearing for Bell has been scheduled for June 29, 2016, before U.S. District Judge Thomas. W. Thrash, Jr.
This case is being investigated by the Federal and Georgia Bureaus of Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey W. Davis is prosecuting the case. Former Assistant United States Attorney Jamie L. Mickelson previously 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.