DOT truck inspector of Buffalo gets 18 months for taking bribes

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 12/30/2011

The former head of an FMCSA inspection office has been sentenced to 18 months for taking bribes and allegedly using the power of inspections to help certain motor carriers while hurting rivals.

James H. Wood, 45, of Delevan, NY, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to forfeit $41,300. Wood, who was the Field Office Supervisor in Buffalo, NY, pleaded guilty in June to taking bribes from Canadian trucking companies. 

According to court documents, in early January the Federal Bureau of Investigation worked with a witness who provided detailed information about the inspector’s activities out of the Buffalo FMCSA office.

According to court documents, a witness who worked as a safety consultant for commercial trucking companies in Canada, told FBI agents Canadian motor carriers used a third party to pay Wood $60,000 to $70,000 during the last two years. The payments were made in cash and Western Union wire payments.

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 Jan. 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.”

U.S. Attorney William Hochul said his office will not hesitate prosecuting “those who abuse their position.”

“The agency involved in this case is dedicated to keeping the nation’s roadways safe,” Hochul said in a news release. “By accepting bribes, this defendant not only abused his position of public trust; he also potentially put those who use public highways at risk.”

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