Senior MARTA executive charged with a false invoice scam causing MARTA to pay $500,000 for work never performed
ATLANTA - Joseph J. Erves, MARTA’s former Senior Director of Operations, has been charged with conducting a false invoice scheme that resulted in MARTA paying more than $500,000 for maintenance work that was never performed and for funneling most of the money back into his personal bank accounts.
“Erves was entrusted to safeguard the taxpayer funds used to run our public transportation authority, and instead he is charged with stealing a half million dollars to buy a Porsche and other high-end purchases. This is a classic case where a public official’s short-term gain in stealing from taxpayers comes crashing down and ends with criminal charges,” said U.S. Attorney John A. Horn.
“The federal investigation and resulting federal charges against Mr. Erves will hopefully send a message to others that such ill-conceived schemes to redirect corporate or public funds to their own accounts is a criminal act with tough consequences. The FBI would like to thank the MARTA Police and their investigators for their invaluable assistance in getting this matter advanced for prosecution,” said David J. LeValley, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office.
According to U.S. Attorney Horn, the charges, and other information presented in court: the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (“MARTA”) is the principal public transportation operator in the Atlanta metropolitan area, providing fixed rail and bus service to more than 500,000 passengers per weekday. Formed in 1965, MARTA is a multi-county governmental agency with a 2016 annual budget of more than $880 million.
From 1993 to 2017, Erves worked for MARTA, ultimately serving as its Senior Director of Operations. In that position, Erves oversaw the maintenance of all of MARTA’s buses and rail cars and had the authority to approve payments up to $10,000 to vendors for work performed on behalf of MARTA.
Beginning in or about 2010, Erves retained three different vendors purportedly to perform maintenance projects for MARTA, including repairing brake testing equipment and fixing various MARTA tools and equipment. From approximately June 2010 to December 2016, Erves had fake invoices prepared on behalf of the three vendors for more than 40 maintenance projects for which no work was performed.
Erves then used the false invoices as bases to authorize payments to the three vendors. In many cases, Erves personally approved payments to the vendors knowing that the vendors had not performed any work for MARTA.
After being paid, the three vendors funneled most of the money received from MARTA into Erves’s personal bank accounts. Subsequently, Erves used the money deposited into his accounts to pay personal expenses, such as multiple purchases at high-end department stores and the purchase of a Porsche 911. Based on Erves’s authority and representations, MARTA paid the three vendors more than $500,000 for maintenance projects where no worked was actually performed.
Erves, 52, of Lithonia, Georgia, has been charged in a criminal information with one count of Federal Program Theft. Erves is expected to plead guilty to the charge shortly after arraignment.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the MARTA Police Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey W. Davis and Alison Prout are prosecuting 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.