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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Virginia

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Former BVU Board Chairman Pleads Guilty

Bruce J. Clifton Jr. Admits to Conspiracy Charge

ABINGDON, VIRGINIA – The former Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Bristol Virginia Utilities Authority pled guilty this morning in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Abingdon to a Federal conspiracy charge, United States Attorney John P. Fishwick Jr. announced.

Bruce J. Clifton Jr., 64, of Bristol, Va., waived his right to be indicted and pled guilty this morning to a one count Information charging him with conspiracy to commit program fraud and having knowledge of the actual commission of felony and concealing such felony from the United States.

“The level of corruption at BVU was overwhelming,” United States Attorney John P. Fishwick Jr. said today. “In cooperation with our partners in law enforcement, we continue to dismantle these corrupt individuals and put those who have profited from corruption in federal prison.”

“The sheer number of FBI investigations and subsequent charges against individuals involved in the Bristol Virginia Utilities Authority should demonstrate the government’s commitment to seeking out and holding accountable those who manipulate the system for their personal gain.  Public corruption continues to be the Bureau’s top criminal priority.  We encourage the public to continue to report suspicious activity; through their concern and information the FBI strives to wipe out corruption at all levels,” said Adam S. Lee, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division.

According to evidence presented at today’s hearing by Assistant United States Attorney Zachary T. Lee, Clifton was a citizen member of the BVU Board of Directors from January 2, 2010 through March 27, 2016, having served as the Chairman of the Board from July 2015 to March 27, 2016.

In 2011, BVU entered into an agreement with Company #1. The agreement stated that if BVU signed a contract with Company #1, Company #1 would pay to entertain BVU executives and BVU Board Members in Dallas, Texas. This entertainment included the payment of hotel expenses, limousine services, meals and tickets to an NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks on November 6, 2011, in which not only tickets would be provided but also access to a luxury suite would be available. On or about September 29, 2011, a contract was entered into with Company #1 and funds in the amount of $4,496,096 were allocated by BVU to pay Company #1.

On or about November 5, 2011 and November 8, 2011, Wes Rosenbalm, Bruce J. Clifton Jr., and other members of the BVU Board of Directors, traveled to Dallas, Texas. During this trip, these individuals attended a Dallas Cowboys football game, stayed at the Westin Park Central Hotel, were transported by a limousine service, were provided a tour of Dallas, Texas, and were provided multiple meals, all at the expense of Company #1.

The total value of the services and things of value provided to Clifton, individually, was approximately, $2,500. The total costs to Company #1 for providing these services and things of value to Clifton and BVU employees and BVU Board Members, exceeded $10,000. On or about January 9, 2012, Clifton completed his Virginia state mandated financial disclosure form for the year 2011 and did not disclose the payment of expenses and things of value he received from Company #1 for his trip to Dallas, Texas.

In addition, Clifton, who is a general sales manager of Company #2, used his position on the BVU Board of Directors and worked with BVU Employee #3, to ensure that Company #2 secured bids to provide BVU with fleet vehicles. Clifton ensured Company #2 won bids to provide vehicles to BVU by getting information from BVU Employee #3 about each bid submitted and then adjusting the bid from Company #2 to ensure it was the lowest bid. When Employee #3 passed away in April 2011, Clifton approached BVU Employee #4 and explained that Employee #3 would tell Clifton when he was not the low bidder for a contract and when Clifton needed to “sharpen his pencil.”

On or about July 17, 2015, Clifton was interviewed by an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and admitted that Clifton had told another car salesman that he had been provided inside information related to bids received by BVU for the purchase of automobiles.

Clifton admitted today that on September 16, 2013, the BVU Board of Directors met and after entering executive session, discussed the implications of alleged misconduct of Wes Rosenbalm. During that meeting, which BVU Board Members did not know was being recorded, members discussed the fact that many of the board members had engaged in similar activity, including accepting tickets and attending the previous trip to Dallas, Texas, which had been paid for by a vendor. Board members also discussed that many other employees could get wrapped up in a scandal if the information related to Wes Rosenbalm came to light in public. Specifically, Stacey Pomrenke and David Copeland were employees mentioned as potentially being involved in illegal activity associated with vendors of BVU.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation.  Assistant United States Attorney Zachary Lee and Special Assistant United States Attorney Kevin Jayne prosecuted the case for the United States.

Public Corruption
Updated April 6, 2016