A Berks County man is one of two people charged in the alleged theft of more than $3.6 million in taxpayer money.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced the charges Thursday as part of an ongoing investigation of potential corruption and fraud involving PennDOT's District 6, which is made up of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.
Contractor Thanh Nguyen, 62, of King of Prussia, Montgomery County, stands accused of stealing at least $3.6 million in public funds. He's received $26 million in contracts for PennDOT maintenance since 2009, Kane said.
Robert Slamon, 54, of Cumru Township, Berks County, a PennDOT consultant inspector for Czop Specter Inc. in Norristown, facilitated Nguyen's scheme by falsifying PennDOT records to steal money that was intended to maintain state roads, bridges and tunnels, said Kane, adding that Slamon was observed receiving a $5,000 cash payment from Nguyen.
"This is a clear case of illegal activity driven by greed," Kane said. "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. As a result, work was not done and the safety of drivers in five southeastern Pennsylvania counties was put at risk."
Nguyen controls and owns two businesses -- V-Tech Services Inc. and Utility Line Clearance Inc. -- that contracted with PennDOT for herbicide spraying, litter cleanup, mowing, landscaping, graffiti removal, tree removal and other maintenance services, Kane said.
Nguyen allegedly defrauded the agency by inflating work hours and the number of people working at various job sites, and for billing for equipment and materials not purchased, rented or used.
"Our investigation into corruption at PennDOT Region Six continues, and we expect to make additional arrests," Kane said. "We will work to bring to justice anyone who has defrauded the public and, in doing so, we can help restore public trust in PennDOT's maintenance efforts in southeastern Pennsylvania."
PennDOT spokesman Gene Blaum issued the following statement in response to Thursday's arrests:
"When we became aware of the issues we immediately started to investigate the circumstances and review existing procedures. PennDOT is committed to honest and efficient management of the transportation system. We take these issues very seriously, are cooperating with investigators and have been aggressively pursuing follow-up action. We are conducting a vigorous, full-scale internal review of operations in our District 6-0 maintenance unit."
Nguyen is charged with three counts each of theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, and tampering with public records; two counts of corrupt organizations; and one count each of bribery in official and political matters, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity, and criminal conspiracy. If convicted of all counts, he faces a statutory maximum of 150 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 plus restitution.
Slamon is charged with two counts each of corrupt organizations and tampering with public records; and one count each of bribery in official and political matters, theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, and criminal conspiracy. If convicted of all counts, he faces a statutory maximum of 95 years in prison and a fine of $150,000.