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DA: Metro-North Employee Pocketed $70K+ in Insider Bid-Rigging Scheme

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NBCConnecticut.com

What to Know

  • Three individuals, including a former Metro-North manager, were charged for their roles in a multi-million bid-rigging scheme, according to prosecutors
  • Prosecutors allege James Berlangero, 62, a former contract manager at Metro-North Railroad, for corrupting the request-for-proposals process to award contracts to WRS Environmental Services, Inc., in exchange for more than $70,000 in kickbacks
  • WRS owner and CEO Michael Rodgers, 62, and Director of Business Development Thomas Willis, 60, are also charged for their roles in the fraud, prosecutors said

Three individuals, including a former Metro-North manager, were charged for their roles in a multi-million bid-rigging scheme, according to prosecutors.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny announced the indictment of James Berlangero, 62, a former contract manager at Metro-North Railroad, for corrupting the request-for-proposals process to award contracts to WRS Environmental Services, Inc., in exchange for more than $70,000 in kickbacks.

WRS owner and CEO Michael Rodgers, 62, and Director of Business Development Thomas Willis, 60, are also charged for their roles in the fraud which unlawfully netted WRS Metro-North contracts for regulated waste transportation and disposal, as well as asbestos removal and other remediation services, valued at more than $10 million, prosecutors say.

According to the indictment, Berlangero allegedly used his position as contract manager for the Procurement and Material Management Department of Metro-North, in which he was tasked with ensuring the integrity of Metro-North’s contracts and free competition on contract solicitations, including Requests for Proposals (RFPs), to unlawfully help his codefendants secure contracts in return for a number of kickbacks totaling more than $70,000.

Allegedly Berlangero acted in concert with Rodgers, Willis, and WRS to undermine free competition on multiple RFPs and contract awards by disclosing confidential Metro-North information to Rodgers, and in turn providing WRS with an unlawful advantage over its competitors.

In one instance in April 2015, Berlangero allegedly provided score sheets and evaluations completed by Metro-North selection committee members so WRS could change an oral presentation. Prosecutors say that, subsequently, in June 2015, he also gave Rodgers the favored proposer’s price proposal so WRS could undercut their price allowing WRS to win a contract award of up to $4 million, receiving more than $2.7 million between November 2015 and October 2019.

In yet another alleged instance in May 2015, Berlangero assisted WRS in obtaining a transport sub-contract on a Metro-North contract pertaining to Hurricane Sandy damage repair, even though WRS was not initially approved to receive transport contracts at that time. According to prosecutors, Berlangero steered the sub-contract work to WRS by providing an accepted competitor’s price to the company, enabling it to submit a lower bid. Allegedly, to date, WRS has received more than $1 million from that sub-contract.

Prosecutors say that in return for his help, Rodgers made a variety of check and cash payments to Berlangero, including six checks totaling more than $19,000. Rodgers allegedly also wrote checks totaling more than $32,000 to pay Berlangero’s mortgage.

In a statement, MTA Senior Advisor Ken Lovett said “the MTA has zero tolerance for any violation of the public’s trust" and that if Berlangero is indeed guilty, he should be held accountable.

"Metro-North fully cooperated with the MTA IG and District Attorney in their investigation into this matter.  We have reviewed our internal procedures and that review indicates that this was an isolated case of a single, rogue employee -- Mr. Berlangero -- who was promptly removed from service, brought up on disciplinary charges and resigned. Additionally, the MTA is freezing any open contracts with WSR," Lovett's statement goes on to say.

Berlangero was charged with corrupting the government, bribe receiving and contract and agreements for monopoly and in restraint of trade.

Meanwhile, Rodgers and WRS Environmental Services, Inc. were charged with corrupting the government, bribery and contract and agreements for monopoly and in restraint of trade.

Willis was charged with corrupting the government and contract and agreements for monopoly and in restraint of trade.

Attorney information for the accused was not immediately known.

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