By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer
Federal prosecutors say a DOT inspector accepted tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from Canadian commercial trucking companies in order to help them avoid and delay truck inspections.
The inspector allegedly targeted some companies with complaint audits to put them out of business.
According to court documents, in early January the Federal Bureau of Investigation worked with a witness that provided detailed information about the inspector’s activities out of an FMCSA office in Buffalo, NY.
The witness, who worked as a safety consultant for commercial trucking companies in Canada, told agents they paid the agent $60,000 to $70,000 during the last two years with cash and Western Union wire payments. The payments were made on behalf of Canadian motor carriers.
The money was exchanged for information that included quarterly listings of Canadian trucking companies being targeted for FMCSA inspections; assistance from the DOT inspector in helping the witness obtain work from those companies; “audit sample” information that showed what information FMCSA would review during inspections; the inspector’s help in rescheduling FMCSA inspections and the inspector’s initiation of “complaint audits” to put a company out of business; and “friendly audits” to help a company to obtain a satisfactory rating from FMCSA.
During one recorded phone call, prosecutors say the inspector pushed back one carrier’s inspection from January 18 to the first week of February for $1,000. In another call, the inspector allegedly agreed to come to Canada to personally conduct an inspection only if he received payment in advance. He also had harsh words for the witness after the witness put information about their inspection deals in an e-mail.
“Don’t ever put that kind of stuff in an email to me again,” the inspector said, according to court documents. “Yeah you sent me the email … with all the numbers and everything and company names … don’t do that … all email is open to anybody who wants to get a hold of it.”
James H. Wood, 44, of Delevan, NY, has been charged with accepting bribes “in violation of his official duty”.
Wood was reportedly being held in jail for a mental health evaluation after being “despondent” since the arrest.
Buffalonews.com reported that Wood said he expects to be fired from his $80,000 a year job.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI, the DOT, and the DOT Office of Inspector General.
Copyright © 2011 OOIDA