Former Director of Broward Public Works Department, Two Contractors, and Another Charged with Offering and Accepting Bribes in Connection with County Contracts
|U.S. Attorney’s Office January 23, 2013|
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office; Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI); and Marlies T. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, announce the unsealing of a criminal complaint and the filing of an Information charging defendants Jihad El Eid, 53, formerly of Plantation, Florida, and Wael El Eid, 45, formerly of Coral Springs, Florida, and both currently residing in Lebanon, with bribery in connection with programs receiving federal funds, highway fraud, mail fraud, extortion under color of official right, and conspiracy to commit those offenses, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 666, 1020, 1341, 1349, 1951, and 371, respectively. Also charged are defendants Anthoneel Allen, 40, of Sunrise, Florida, and James Hashim, 50, of Plantation, Florida, for conspiracy to commit bribery in programs receiving federal funds, highway fraud, mail fraud, extortion under color of official right, tax fraud, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise fraud, all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 371. Defendants Allen and Hashim made their initial appearance in federal court this morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry S. Seltzer. Both were released on a $100,000 personal surety bond. Jihad El Eid and Wael El Eid are believed to be out of the country and did not appear in court.
According to the criminal complaint and the Information, in 1998, Jihad El Eid was hired as the director of the Broward County Traffic Engineering Division (BCTED), which is responsible for constructing, repairing, and maintaining the traffic systems and signs on the roadways in Broward County. Defendant Allen owned Southeast Underground Utilities Corp. (SUU) in Plantation, Florida, which was in the business of installing, repairing, and maintaining street lights and traffic signals. Prior to 2005, SUU had no contracts with the Broward County government or any Broward County municipality. In or about 2005, Allen hired defendant Hashim as a vice president of SUU. Hashim was to work as an estimator and to help SUU obtain government contracts.
According to the criminal complaint and the information, beginning in the fall of 2006 through 2010, at the request of Jihad El Eid, Allen and Hashim provided to Jihad El Eid more than $150,000 in cash, a 2003 Ford Taurus, and a job at SUU for Wael El Eid (a relative of Jihad El Eid). Allen and Hashim allegedly made these payments to curry favor with Jihad El Eid. In return, Jihad El Eid allegedly helped SUU obtain work on multi-million-dollar projects initiated by the BCTED, including the Signalization and Street Light Installation (SSLI) contract, a contract to make installations and do repair work of the street lights and traffic equipment in Broward County; the Advanced Transportation Management System (ATMS Project), a federally funded project, that required the contractor to install an integrated traffic control system that entailed laying hundreds of thousands of feet of underground cable and conduit in order to synchronize traffic flow within Broward County; and the Video Detection Contract (VDC), which required the contractor to install video detection cameras in various intersections in Broward County in order to improve traffic flow. Jihad El Eid also assisted SUU concerning billing, specification and inspection matters that resulted in SUU being overpaid by at least $3,000,000.
According to the information, Allen and Hashim conspired to evade paying federal income and employment taxes on bonuses and payments on the purchase of Hashim’s $1.25 million house in Plantation, Florida. The charging documents also allege that Allen filed a fraudulent application on behalf of SUU to have SUU certified as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), which resulted in SUU being awarded awarded directly or as a subcontractor approximately 25 contracts from Broward County and other state, county, and local governments in the state of Florida based on its fraudulently obtained DBE status, which entitled SUU to receive in excess of $10,000,000 in government contracts.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Corruption in the procurement process is unacceptable, especially when it affects programs receiving federal funds. It is crucial that businesses compete on a level playing field, without improper outside influences or the payment or receipt of bribes. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to prosecute those who steal from programs receiving federal funds.”
“This investigation reveals how business is not to be conducted in the United States. The FBI is committed to investigating not just corrupt acts, but the individuals who are behind them,” said Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Division. “We encourage anyone who may have information about corruption to come forward and report it. That information is critical to our work.”
“Individuals in positions of public trust are expected to work in an ethical manner,” said Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). “Accepting a bribe corrupts the system, and IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to enforce the law and hold individuals accountable who engage in this type of fraud.”
“The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program is a legislatively mandated USDOT program that applies to federal-aid highway dollars on federally assisted contracts issued by USDOT recipients such as state and local governmental agencies. The charges filed today are an example to all who would misuse their positions as caretakers of the public trust,” said Marlies T. Gonzalez, Regional Special Agent in Charge, U.S. DOT-OIG. “We will continue to vigorously investigate and work with our law enforcement and prosecutorial colleagues to see that those who violate the public trust are punished to the fullest extent of the law.”
If convicted of the charges in the criminal complaint, defendants Jihad El Eid and Wael El Eid face a possible maximum statutory sentence of up to 20 years in prison. If convicted of the charges in the information, defendants Allen and Hashim each face a possible statutory maximum sentence of up to five years in prison.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI, IRS-CI, and the U.S. Department of Transportation-Office of Inspector General in connection with the investigation of this matter. Mr. Ferrer would also like to recognize the assistance provided by the Broward County Office of the County Attorney, the Broward County Professional Standards Section, the Federal Highway Administration, the Florida Department of Transportation, and the employees of the Broward County Traffic Engineering Division. The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey N. Kaplan.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.