PennDOT corruption probe nets two arrests

Thanh Nguyen raked in big bucks as a contractor hired to sweep streets, remove graffiti and spray herbicide on state roadsides in the five-county Philadelphia area.

Problem is, the King of Prussia man didn't do the work - or double-billed for work he did do, state Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane said today. So Nguyen, 62, now is charged for allegedly stealing at least $3.6 million in public funds. Robert Slamon, 54, the inspector who Nguyen allegedly bribed to facilitate the fraud, also was charged today with conspiring with Nguyen to falsify PennDOT records and help him get paid for work never completed.

Both men are expected to be arraigned later today.

Kane's office began investigating allegations of illegal activity at PennDOT District 6, which includes Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, in March 2013. A statewide investigating grand jury recommended the criminal charges filed today. The charges come three months after another contracted PennDOT inspector, Joseph DeSimone of South Philadelphia, was arrested for perjury for allegedly lying to the grand jury.

“This is a clear case of illegal activity driven by greed,” Kane said in a prepared statement. “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 has received $26 million in contracts for PennDOT maintenance, including herbicide spraying, litter cleanup, mowing, landscaping, graffiti removal and tree removal along state roads and bridges, since 2009, according to the announcement. Nguyen owns two businesses that contracted with PennDOT: V-Tech Services Inc. (V-Tech) and Utility Line Clearance Inc. (ULC).

Investigators determined that Nguyen allegedly stole $660,000 by double-billing on herbicide contracts; $1.5 million for herbicide chemicals never bought or sprayed; and $1.1 million for Philadelphia graffiti-removal and street-sweeping that was not done. He also is accused of inflating work hours and the number of people working at his job sites, according to the grand-jury presentment.

The alleged fraud was documented through GPS-tracking records of his trucks, photographs of state roads, a former employee's private daily work journal and hours of grand jury testimony from PennDOT and Nguyen's employees.

Slamon, of Shillington in Berks County, was most recently a PennDOT consultant inspector, assigned to Philadelphia for roadside management programs, for Czop Specter Inc. in Norristown. He was seen taking $5,000 in cash from Nguyen, according to the presentment.

Further arrests are expected, Kane said.

Nguyen and Slamon are charged with theft, tampering with public records, corrupt organizations, bribery and criminal conspiracy. Nguyen faces up to 150 years in prison and $250,000 in fines, while Slamon faces up to 95 years in prison and $150,000 in fines.

Tipsters who know of potential corruption in PennDOT District 6 are encouraged to call the Attorney General's office in Norristown at (610) 631-6208.