NORRISTOWN – A Department of Transportation contractor stole $3.6 million in public funds by billing the state for work that was never done, state prosecutors said Thursday in what they described as an ongoing corruption probe of PennDOT’s southeastern Pennsylvania district.
PennDOT maintenance contractor Thanh Nguyen, 62, of King of Prussia, and Robert Slamon, 54, of Shillington, a PennDOT-contracted inspector whom Nguyen allegedly bribed, were arraigned on charges including corruption, theft, tampering and conspiracy.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane called the case an example of “illegal activity driven by greed.”
“The grand jury determined that this contractor, already being paid millions of dollars, stole millions more from Pennsylvania taxpayers – and found a state inspector whom he could bribe to help him do so,” she said.
Nguyen and Slamon were released on $50,000 bail each pending an Aug. 13 preliminary hearing in Montgomery County, according to the attorney general’s office.
Nguyen’s attorney did not return a phone call and email seeking comment. No working number was listed for Slamon.
The presentment by a statewide investigating grand jury that is scrutinizing PennDOT’s District 6 said two companies owned and controlled by Nguyen had been paid more than $25 million since 2009 for services that included herbicide spraying, mowing, litter cleanup, graffiti removal, street sweeping, bridge cleaning and tunnel maintenance.
But the panel concluded that the Folcroft-based companies – V-Tech Services Inc. and United Line Clearance Inc. – were not entitled to that much money.
An employee of another PennDOT district who has more than 20 years’ experience in herbicide spraying testified as an expert witness and calculated conservatively that Nguyen’s firms would need to spend $258,000 a year on herbicides to fulfill its contracts with PennDOT. But testimony and records showed they spent only between $36,000 and $117,000 a year.
GPS tracking records also confirmed Nguyen’s trucks were not applying pesticides at work sites as represented on the “roadside activity reports” the company submitted to PennDOT, it said.
“Because they were not given the chemicals needed, the herbicide crews at V-Tech often could not complete the spraying required, diluted the chemicals to make them spread further, sprayed water or did no spraying at all,” the presentment said.
Nguyen also often laundered the PennDOT payments by depositing the money into V-Tech and ULC bank accounts and then surreptitiously writing checks from those accounts to various employees in amounts ranging up to $50,000, the presentment said.
“Nguyen then directed the employee whose name was written on the company check to cash the check and bring the cash directly to Nguyen,” it said.
On one occasion, he was observed handing $5,000 in cash to Slamon, it said.