2 PennDot contractors arraigned in corruption case

Thanh Nguyen, left, and Robert Slamon
Thanh Nguyen, left, and Robert Slamon
Posted: August 02, 2014

Two contractors for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation were arraigned Thursday as part of an ongoing investigation into "massive and widespread theft, fraud, corruption, and money-laundering" by PennDot officials and contractors in the five-county Philadelphia region.

"Those involved in criminal acts include PennDot officials and employees, as well as PennDot contractors and personnel working for PennDot contractors," said the state grand jury presentment, released Thursday by Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane.

Additional arrests are expected, Kane said.

The focus of the investigation is PennDot's District 6, based in King of Prussia. It is in charge of highway projects in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties.

The grand jury described a top District 6 official, who has not been charged, as interceding on behalf of one of the contractors charged Thursday. The contractor, Thanh Nguyen, told coworkers he needed $50,000 to pay the PennDot official, the grand jury said.

The official, described as the assistant district engineer for maintenance, was identified in the presentment only as "NM." That apparently refers to Nicholas Martino, the former assistant district engineer for maintenance for District 6.

Martino could not be reached for comment Thursday. A PennDot spokesman said, "Mr. Martino is no longer employed at PennDot."

Martino was suspended in March and fired in May, according to his attorney, Anthony Voci, who said the allegations against Martino were baseless.

"Why would Nick Martino be singled out? It looks like somebody is trying very hard to come up with a fall guy," Voci said.

He said Martino "never took a penny from Mr. Nguyen or anyone else," and never saw Nguyen's work reports.

PennDot spokesman Eugene Blaum said: "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 maintenance unit."

Nguyen, 62, of King of Prussia, is accused of stealing $3.6 million from PennDot by falsifying and inflating work reports and failing to perform work his firm was hired to do.

Also charged was Robert Slamon, 54, of Shillington, Pa., a PennDot inspector most recently employed by Czop Specter Inc. of Norristown.

Slamon conspired with Nguyen to falsify work reports and received a $5,000 cash payment from Nguyen, the grand jury 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," Kane said in the statement. "As a result, work was not done and the safety of drivers in five Southeastern Pennsylvania counties was put at risk."

Nguyen owns two business that won contracts with PennDot - V-Tech Services Inc. (V-Tech) and Utility Line Clearance Inc. (ULC).

Kane's office said Nguyen stole $660,000 by double billing on herbicide contracts; billing $1.5 million for herbicides never bought; and billing $1.1 million for street cleaning and graffiti removal work in Philadelphia that was never performed.

If convicted of all counts, Nguyen faces a maximum term of 150 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 plus restitution.

Slamon faces a maximum of 95 years in prison and a fine of $150,000.

Attorneys for Nguyen and Slamon could not immediately be reached for comment. The men were arraigned before District Judge James P. Gallagher in Upper Merion Township. Nguyen was released after posting 10 percent of bail set at $50,000 and Slamon was released on unsecured bail, also set at $50,000.

A preliminary hearing was set for Aug. 13 before Gallagher.

The grand jury investigation is also costing Nguyen other business.

SEPTA said Thursday it "is in the process of terminating" two janitorial contracts with ULC worth $2.6 million.

The five-year contracts, awarded in January, were for cleaning rail stations on two lines and Roberts rail yard facilities, said SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams.

Since 2001, SEPTA has awarded V-Tech and ULC about $27 million in contracts. The only ones remaining are the two that are being terminated, Williams said.

Nguyen has contributed $85,000 to Pennsylvania politicians since 2001, including $61,000 to John M. Perzel, the former Republican state House leader from Philadelphia, and $20,000 to Ed Rendell, former Democratic mayor and governor.

Nguyen and V-Tech played a pivotal role in the federal indictment in 2006 of T. Milton Street Sr., the former state senator and brother of former Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street.

Prosecutors in that case contended that Milton Street, as a $30,000-a-month consultant for Philadelphia Airport Services, took a $50,000 payment from Nguyen to help V-Tech win a maintenance contract at Philadelphia International Airport and then give a portion of the profits back to Street. The contract was never awarded and the $50,000 was not returned, according to a lawsuit filed by Nguyen, who said Street also failed to pay back a $30,000 loan.

Thursday's charges in the PennDot case are the latest in the grand jury investigation. In April, another District 6 inspector, Joseph DeSimone, was arrested and charged with perjury for allegedly lying to the investigative grand jury.


pnussbaum@phillynews.com

215-854-4587

@nussbaumpaul

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