Third Commercial Trash Hauler Admits to Bribing Baltimore City Landfill Employees
BALTIMORE, MD—Larry Lowry, age 61, of Orchard Beach, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy and bribery in connection with a scheme in which commercial haulers paid Department of Public Works (DPW) employees cash in return for allowing the haulers to deposit trash at the Quarantine Road Landfill (Landfill) without paying the required disposal fees.
The plea agreement was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Kevin Perkins of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Robert H. Pearre, Jr., Inspector General, City of Baltimore Office of Inspector General; Special Agent in Charge Thomas Jankowski of the Internal Revenue Service—Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office; and Colonel William M. Pallozzi, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police.
The DPW’s Bureau of Solid Waste is responsible for managing Baltimore City’s waste management services, including overseeing citizen drop-off centers, such as the Northwest Transfer Station (NWTS) and the Landfill. Baltimore City’s waste management system generates revenue for the City by collecting and selling recyclable scrap metal dumped at the City’s trash collection facilities. The City contracts with private salvage companies to purchase and remove scrap metal from its trash collection facilities. DPW employees at the Landfill and NWTS are required to place the recyclable scrap metal in separate bins provided by the salvage companies. The salvage companies regularly pick up the scrap metal and, based on predetermined prices per ton, the salvage companies pay the City for the value of the scrap metal.
Baltimore City residents can deposit small amounts of trash and/or recyclables in dumpsters located near the main entrance of the Landfill, free of charge. Individuals or companies commercially hauling trash that have registered their vehicles with the City and obtained Landfill permits, as well as Baltimore City residents with larger loads, must deposit their trash in an open area located farther within the Landfill. Commercial haulers of trash that meet certain vehicle weight limitations must, in addition to purchasing a Landfill permit, pay a waste disposal fee of $67.50 per ton of trash deposited at the Landfill.
DPW employees assigned as scale house operators weigh each truck as it enters the Landfill, which is recorded on a computerized point-of-sale system. To activate the system and record a particular transaction, DPW employees must enter the tag number of the truck and a corresponding billing code. The scale house operators reweigh each truck as it leaves the Landfill. The net weight of the deposited trash and the required disposal fee is then calculated and printed on a receipt that is handed to the driver.
According to his plea agreement, beginning in 1988, Lowry was in the business of collecting and hauling trash to the Landfill when he learned from a friend that he could avoid paying the disposal fee if he paid a cash bribe to the scale house operators. The friend introduced Lowry to William Nemec and others to whom Lowry paid $100 per trip in lieu of the usual dumping fee. This continued for approximately two years until Lowry stopped using the Landfill. In 2010, Lowry approached Nemec and told him that he wanted to start using the Landfill again for free. Thereafter Lowry paid a $100 cash bribe, usually to Nemec, but sometimes to others. Paying the $100 bribe for each trip he made to the Landfill saved Lowry thousands of dollars in fees each month. When Lowry first started paying the bibes he would hand the money to the scale operator through the outbound window at the scale house. Later, he usually met Nemec at an off-site location where he would pay a week’s worth of bribes or more. Lowry always paid the bribes in cash. While he was paying the bribes Lowry received phony receipts from the scale house operators at the outbound window. From July 1, 2014 to May 1, 2015 alone, Williams paid more than $20,000 in bribe payments in lieu of paying the required waste disposal fees, which totaled approximately $60,000.
As part of his plea agreement, Lowry has agreed to forfeit and pay restitution of $350,000.
Lowry faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy and 10 years in prison for bribery. U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis has scheduled sentencing for Williams on January 8, 2016 at 10:00 a.m.
Former DPW employees Tamara Oliver Washington, age 55, and William Charles Nemec, Sr., age 55, both of Baltimore; and commercial haulers Mustafa Sharif, age 63, of Baltimore, and Adam Williams, Jr., age 52, of Randallstown, have pleaded guilty to their participation in the bribery scheme. Nemec and another DPW employee, Michael Theodore Bennett, age 46, also of Baltimore, have pleaded guilty to a related “junking” scheme. Washington is scheduled to be sentenced on October 20, 2015, Williams on October 21, 2015, Sharif on November 6, 2015, Nemec on November 17, 2015, and Bennett on December 21, 2015. Washington and Nemec have each agreed to the entry of an order to pay $6 million in restitution. Sharif has agreed to forfeit and pay restitution of $500,000 and Williams has agreed to forfeit and pay restitution of $900,000. As part of his plea agreement, Bennett agreed to the entry of an order to pay restitution of $526,273.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the FBI, IRS-CI, Baltimore Office of Inspector General, and Maryland State Police for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorney Martin J. Clarke, who is prosecuting the case.