Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that RICHARD BREGA was sentenced today to 50 months in prison for bribery, fraud, and theft from a program receiving government funds. BREGA was found guilty of these crimes on May 2, 2018, by a jury at the conclusion of a three-week trial. The sentence was imposed by United States District Judge Kenneth M. Karas.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “The successful prosecution of Richard Brega demonstrates the commitment of the federal government to rooting out corruption and fraud in Rockland County and throughout the Hudson Valley. The taxpayers and the schoolchildren and their families there deserve far better than the criminal scheming Brega gave them. The sentence imposed today serves a stern reminder that the criminal path Brega chose leads to one place: prison.”
The evidence at trial showed, among other things, the following:
BREGA defrauded a school district – Rockland BOCES – by falsely claiming to maintain the district’s buses, which BREGA knew were used to transport special-needs students, and bribing a Rockland BOCES employee to approve the false invoices for payment. As a result, Rockland BOCES transported special-needs students on deteriorating, unmaintained buses as BREGA got paid.
In particular, BREGA owned and controlled vehicle repair and transportation companies in Rockland County, including Brega D.O.T. Maintenance Corp. (“Brega DOT”), a fleet-maintenance repair shop. Rockland BOCES serves eight school districts in Rockland County. Among the services that Rockland BOCES offers to its students – particularly children with special physical, intellectual, and emotional needs – is transportation, for which it has a fleet of buses and other vehicles (hereinafter collectively referred to as “Rockland BOCES buses” and “bus fleet”), some of which are specially equipped for students with physical disabilities. Rockland BOCES receives federal funding each year, often in excess of $1 million.
From in or about 2008 or 2009, through in or about 2015, Brega DOT provided vehicle repair service and maintenance for Rockland BOCES bus fleet, including regular preventive maintenance (“Preventive Maintenance”), which is supposed to involve a thorough and detailed inspection and testing of the buses at Brega DOT’s facility, designed to ensure that the buses are defect-free and safe to operate with children aboard. Brega DOT would fix any problems with the buses that it found during Preventive Maintenance inspections before releasing the buses back to Rockland BOCES. Brega DOT also created invoices documenting the work done and provided those invoices to Rockland BOCES for payment. Rockland BOCES’ director of transportation, William Popkave, would then approve the invoice as accurately stating work that was performed on Rockland BOCES buses, and Rockland BOCES would mail payment to Brega DOT.
From in or about 2012 through in or about 2014, BREGA stole money from Rockland BOCES by, among other things, billing Rockland BOCES for Preventive Maintenance inspections that were never performed. To do so, BREGA directed his employees to prepare fraudulent invoices, as well as fraudulent supporting documentation, giving the false appearance that his company had performed regular Preventive Maintenance inspections on certain buses, when in fact those buses were not even brought to Brega DOT and Preventive Maintenance inspections were not performed.
To create the fraudulent invoices, and to obtain payment from Rockland BOCES for work that was never performed, BREGA bribed Popkave – who oversaw upkeep and maintenance of its buses – with tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of free personal vehicle repairs. Popkave sent BREGA lists of buses and their mileages so that BREGA could create fraudulent invoices and supporting documentation, and thereafter approved payment of the fraudulent invoices at Rockland BOCES, even though Popkave and BREGA knew that the buses had not even been to Brega DOT on the days for which Brega DOT billed Rockland BOCES, and had not received Preventive Maintenance inspections.
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BREGA, 51, of Rockland County, was convicted of three counts: (1) mail fraud, (2) bribery concerning a program receiving federal funds, and (3) theft from a program receiving federal funds.
Popkave, 62, of Rockland County, New York, pled guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith C. McCarthy on January 24, 2017, to five counts: (1) conspiracy to commit mail fraud, which carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison; (2) mail fraud, which carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison; (3) theft concerning a program receiving federal funds, which carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison; (4) bribery concerning a program receiving federal funds, which carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison; and (5) obstruction of justice, which carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison.
The statutory maximum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as the sentencing of Popkave will be determined by the judge at a future date.
Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office, and the United States Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General. Mr. Berman also thanked the United States Department of Education, Office of Inspector General, for its assistance.
This case is being handled by the Office’s White Plains Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael D. Maimin and Benjamin Allee are in charge of the prosecution.