Nine Pennsylvania Department of Transportation workers are facing felony theft and bribery charges in connection with a “massive” scam that allegedly netted the group close to $500,000 worth of overtime pay.
They were arraigned Wednesday in Montgomery County, not far from PennDOT’s District Six offices, where each defendant was based.
For nearly three years, seven highway inspectors allegedly billed for hours they never worked and miles they never drove. They are: Frank DiMichele, Geno Palmieri, John Cavanaugh, Joseph DiSimone, John LaSpada, Chris Lauch, and Brandon Grosso.
A 10th highway inspector, David Betzner, also was indicted by a grand jury and is expected to turn himself in by Friday after making his way up from Florida.
Their managers – William Rosetti and Alex Morrone – allegedly got kickbacks for looking the other way. Or, as, county Chief Deputy Attorney General Erik Olsen put it, for “active encouragement and active complicity.”
Two consulting firms that have contracts with PennDOT received more than $700,000 as a result of the phony overtime hours and the profits connected to them for each consulting inspector.
All nine defendants left court Wednesday without addressing reporters.
Attorney Brian Collins, who represents Lauch, said the grand jury report sounds worse than it is.
“Mr. Lauch acted honorably and is going to come out OK,” said Collins. “He’s an Army veteran, he’s worked all his life, he has five adult children, and he’s a generally good guy.”
The men are charged with theft by deception, bribery and conspiracy, among other offenses.
If convicted, they would face lengthy prison sentences and, with certain counts, automatically lose their state pensions.
All nine are out on $200,000 unsecured bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 29.
Olsen wouldn’t say if more arrests are coming, only that his office’s investigation is “nowhere close” to being finished.
“In this case, every door we’ve opened has led to two to three other doors,” he said.
A whistle-blower alerted the state attorney general’s Office to the scheme.