By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer
A former FMCSA supervisor has pleaded guilty for taking at least $60,000 in bribes to help some companies avoid and delay truck inspections – and to target rival Canadian motor carriers to put them out of business.
On June 1, James Wood, a former FMCSA Supervisory Highway Safety Specialist working at the agency’s Buffalo, NY office, pleaded guilty to taking bribes from Canadian trucking companies working through consultant companies.
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 Wood $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.
Wood, who has since been fired, is scheduled to be sentenced in that case in October.
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