TRENTON – A suspended New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) senior engineer and an alleged accomplice have been indicted on charges that they solicited a railroad company to fraudulently inflate the cost of a state-funded railroad repair project by more than $700,000 and pay them $325,000 in bribes, Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced.
The Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau obtained a state grand jury indictment charging Gaudner B. Metellus, 32, of Philadelphia, Pa., a senior engineer for DOT, and Ernest J. Dubose, 30, of Boston, Mass., with conspiracy, official misconduct, bribery, attempted theft by deception and false contract payment claims. Each charge is a second-degree offense carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison. Each charge, except the conspiracy count, also carries a mandatory five years of parole ineligibility. The indictment was voted yesterday, but filed with the court today.
Metellus and Dubose allegedly solicited representatives of a company that operates a shortline freight railroad in New Jersey to engage in a scheme to fraudulently inflate the cost of a project to rehabilitate the Eagle Rock Railroad Bridge in Roseland from about $693,000 to $1,421,510 in connection with an application under the State Rail Freight Assistance Grant Program.
The two men allegedly proposed that the company submit false invoices for rehabilitation work that would never be performed, and demanded that it split the state grant funds with them. Metellus was responsible for confirming the need for repair work and inspecting completed work in connection with the grant program. Officials of the railroad company alerted the Division of Criminal Justice about the alleged plot and cooperated in the state’s investigation. The two men were originally arrested and charged in the scheme on Sept. 23, 2010.
“We allege that Metellus was caught with his hand in the till, attempting to steal more than $700,000 from the state grant program that he was entrusted with overseeing, including $325,000 in bribes that he tried to collect with his accomplice,” said Dow. “Fortunately, the rail company that he allegedly tried to enlist in his corrupt scheme blew the whistle on him.”
“This ranks as one of the largest bribery indictments in state history, in terms of the money involved,” said Taylor. “This senior engineer tried to parlay his authority over large grants into a corrupt deal to secure a $325,000 bribe for himself and his co-defendant.”
On Aug. 12, 2010, company officials secretly audiotaped a meeting that the CEO of the railroad company and another employee held with Metellus at the company’s offices in Morristown, in which Metellus allegedly described the fraudulent scheme. The company contacted the Division of Criminal Justice the following day. The company cooperated in the state’s investigation, recording additional conversations in which the two defendants allegedly discussed the scheme. The state also obtained emails allegedly sent by Metellus about the scheme.
On Aug. 23, 2010, Metellus and Dubose met with representatives of the railroad company in their offices in Morristown and allegedly received two company checks made payable to Dubose in the amounts of $10,000 and $315,000. The defendants allegedly instructed company representatives to make the checks payable to Dubose as a purported “consultant” on the project. In reality, Dubose had no knowledge or skills that enabled him to act in that capacity.
The $10,000 check was subsequently deposited into a bank account in Dubose’s name. The $315,000 check was postdated to Nov. 5, 2010, allegedly at the direction of Metellus, who indicated that the company would receive state grant funds by that time.
Detective Sgt. David Salzmann, Detective Michael Behar, Deputy Attorney General Michael A. Monahan and Deputy Attorney General Perry Primavera conducted the investigation for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Deputy Attorney General Primavera presented the case to the state grand jury.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Pedro J. Jimenez Jr. in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Morris County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear in court at a later date to answer the charges.
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