Manhattan DA Indicts Cleanup Firm, Execs, MTA Ex-Official in Bribery Scheme
The Manhattan District Attorney's office has indicted two top executives of waste cleanup firm WRS Environmental Services Inc., Yaphank, N.Y., in a bribe and bid-rigging scheme involving award of $10 million in Metro-North Railroad waste transportation, asbestos removal, remediation and construction contracts, DA Cyrus Vance said Jan. 22.
Charged in NY Supreme Court with multiple counts of fraud are firm owner and CEO Michael Rodgers and Thomas Willis, its business development director, as well as James Berlangero, identified as a former Metro North contract manager. According to the DA, kickbacks to Berlangero in the form of cash payments and free services totaled about $70.000.
As alleged in the indictment, "this Metro-North contract manager engaged in an extensive bid-rigging scheme," said Vance. "Armed with confidential information like competitors’ price proposals and evaluations, WRS Environmental Services was able to win contracts valued at more than $10 million, all thanks to their inside man."
The indictment is the result of a joint investigation by the Manhattan D.A.’s Rackets Bureau and the Office of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Inspector General.
According to the DA's office, Berlangero cancelled a 2015 RFP related to waste transportation and disposal when he learned that WRS was not the preferred applicant, and then reissued it.
The Metro North manager "then provided WRS executives score sheets and evaluations completed by the agency's selection committee" so WRS could tailor an oral presentation" and later "provided the favored proposer’s price proposal so WRS could undercut their price," says the DA, resulting in a contract award of up to $4 million, with the firm actually receiving more than $2.7 million between November 2015 and October 2019.
Berlangero also "steered" a Hurricane Sandy damage repair contract to WRS, even though the firm was not initially approved for the work by "providing an accepted competitor's price" to its executives. This enabled WRS to submit a lower bid and win agency authorization to do the work, leading to more than $1 million awarded under the contract to date.
The DA also says WRS received more than $400,009 in Metro North remediation contracts, after Berlangero provided it confidential competitor price information.
The firm, which also has offices in New York City and Edison, N.J., could not be reached for comment. WRS, on its website, says it had completed 1,000 environmental projects as of the end of 2019.