Federal charges filed in W.Va. Division of Highways pay-to-play scheme
WHEELING, WEST VIRGINIA – Four individuals and a corporation are facing federal charges for conspiring to steer West Virginia Division of Highways projects to a South Carolina business in exchange for bribes and kickbacks, United States Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld, II, announced.
Bruce E. Kenney, III, Andrew P. Nichols, James Travis Miller, and Mark R. Whitt have been charged in a scheme which caused $1.5 million worth of highway work to be routed to the Dennis Corporation, a Columbia, South Carolina engineering consulting firm. Bayliss and Ramey, Inc., a Putnam County highway electrical contractor, has also been charged.
Kenney, age 60, of Norfolk, Virginia, is alleged to have used his position in the Traffic Engineering Division of the Division of Highways to bypass normal state procedures and funnel structure inspection work to the Dennis Corporation in exchange for covert payments totaling nearly $200,000. Kenney was charged by Information today with honest services wire fraud conspiracy and conspiracy to impede the Internal Revenue Service.
Nichols, age 38, of Lesage, West Virginia, formerly served as the manager of the West Virginia Division of the Dennis Corporation while also working as an engineering professor. He is alleged to have managed the financial relationships of his co-conspirators, to have ensured that payments were made, and to have lied to federal agents about his involvement in the scheme. Nichols was indicted earlier this month on charges of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and money laundering, along with obstructing justice and making false statements. The indictment was unsealed this morning.
Miller, age 40, of Hurricane, West Virginia, also worked for the Division of Highways before leaving to work for the Dennis Corporation. He is alleged to have delivered covert payments to Kenney in exchange for official actions that were done in favor of Dennis Corporation. Miller was charged by Information today with money laundering conspiracy.
Whitt, 52, of Winfield, West Virginia, was the president and owner of Bayliss and Ramey, Inc., which was awarded the statewide signal maintenance contract in 2009. Whitt allegedly used the
contract to funnel construction work to Dennis Corporation. He benefitted financially for helping to conceal the illegal flow of funds from the Division of Highways to Dennis Corporation. Whitt was charged by Information today with wire fraud conspiracy.
Bayliss and Ramey, Inc. submitted invoices with a twenty percent mark-up to ensure that it would be compensated for its role in the scheme. This mark-up by Bayliss and Ramey caused the State of West Virginia to pay a higher price than it should have for engineering services. The corporation was charged by Information today with wire fraud conspiracy.
The criminal conduct in this matter occurred from 2008 until 2014. The investigation began in September 2015 when information about the scheme was provided to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Each individual defendant faces the possibility of incarceration. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offense and the criminal history, if any, of each defendant. Each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jarod J. Douglas and Sarah W. Montoro are prosecuting the case on behalf of the government. The case is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Public Corruption Unit, which includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the West Virginia Commission on Special Investigations, IRS-Criminal Investigation, and the West Virginia State Police. The investigation is ongoing.
Ihlenfeld commended the efforts of all of the investigators, and encouraged citizens with information regarding public corruption in their community to call the West Virginia Public Corruption Hotline at 855-WVA-FEDS (855-982-3337), or to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.