The executives of an MTA contractor were indicted on Friday for allegedly bribing a high-ranking Metro-North employee to steer jobs their way, including Hurricane Sandy repair work and asbestos removal projects.
WRS Environmental Services owner Michael Rodgers and director of business development Thomas Willis were charged for their role in the fraud, which helped the company score contracts worth more than $10 million, according to Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr.
James Berlangero, a former contract manager with Metro-North Railroad, was also indicted for allegedly corrupting the request-for-proposals process. In exchange for his services, prosecutors said, Berlangero netted more than $70,000 in kickbacks. The contracting company also offered a job to his daughter, as well as a range of free services, including soil test sampling in his home, per court papers.
“As alleged in the indictment, this Metro-North contract manager engaged in an extensive bid-rigging scheme which made it difficult for honest companies to compete for highly valued government contracts," Vance said in a statement. "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."
During the Hurricane Sandy repair effort in 2015, Berlangero allegedly steered a subcontract for transporting contaminated soil to WRS, despite the fact that the company was not authorized to receive transport contracts at the time. In another instance two years later, he allegedly provided confidential information for a job that involved removing asbestos at Grand Central, allowing WRS to tailor its application and undercut its competitors' prices.
In a statement, MTA Senior Advisor Ken Lovett said the transit agency has "zero tolerance for any violation of the public’s trust and if this employee committed these acts, he should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law."
"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," the statement continued. "Additionally, the MTA is freezing any open contracts with WRS."
The alleged bid-rigging may not be the contractor's only attempt to curry favor. In 2018, WRS gave $5,000 to Governor Andrew Cuomo's campaign—one of two donations listed for the company. Rodgers, the now-indicted founder, also attended a fundraiser in a luxury Citi Field box hosted by Cuomo last year, an event for which the governor was later criticized.
“We spoke a little bit about subway problems,” Rodgers later told the Times. “He said he was committed to making it as good as it can be.”
All three defendants have been charged with corruption and violation of monopoly laws. Rodgers and Willis were also charged with bribery.