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Engineer Admits to $700K Bridge Scheme

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

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He stood to make $325,000 in bribes, but now a suspended New Jersey senior engineer faces jail time after admitting that he tried to fraudulently inflate a state-funded bridge repair project by over $700,000.

Gaudner B. Metellus, a 35-year-old NJ Department of Transportation senior engineer, pleaded guilty Jan. 5 to a second-degree charge of official misconduct after he and an alleged accomplice tried to get Morristown & Erie Railway officials to falsely claim a $693,000 project would cost over $1.42 million.

However, the company secretly recorded Metellus describing the plot, leading to the arrest of both him and his alleged middle-man, 34-year-old Ernest J. Dubose of Boston, MA, according to the state's Office of Attorney General.

Possible Sentence

Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Metellus be sentenced to three years in state prison, including a two-year period of parole ineligibility.

Gaudner Metellus
NJ Office of Attorney General

Gaudner Metellus, a suspended senior engineer for NJDOT, pleaded guilty to trying to fraudulently inflate a railroad bridge rehab project by $700,000.

He must also forfeit his job, all of his state pension and retirement benefits and will be permanently barred from public employment.

He was suspended without pay following his arrest in September 2010.

Sentencing is scheduled for March 20.

"Metellus treated his authority over public grants like a license to steal, soliciting huge bribes from a railway company and falsely inflating the cost of a publicly financed project by nearly three-quarters of a million dollars," said Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman.

"Fortunately, the company reported him and Metellus will be spending multiple years in prison, instead of spending his corrupt windfall."

Company's Cooperation

Metellus admitted that he solicited M&E, a short line freight railroad, to inflate the cost of a project to rehabilitate the Eagle Rock Railroad Bridge in Roseland, NJ.

The fraudulent amount was to be reported on an application under the State Rail Freight Assistance Grant Program—a funding program for which Metellus was in charge of confirming the need for repair work and inspecting completed work.

Metellus allegedly proposed that the company submit false invoices for bridge work that would never be performed, and then demanded that it split the state grant funds with them.

In August 2010, officials from M&E secretly recorded a meeting that the CEO and another railroad employee held with Metellus at the company's office, in which Metellus described the scheme. The company then alerted the Division of Criminal Justice and cooperated in the investigation by recording additional conversations.

Cutting Checks

A few weeks later, Metellus and Dubose met with railroad representatives and allegedly received two company checks may payable to Dubose in the amounts of $10,000 and $315,000.

The company was allegedly instructed to make the checks payable to Dubose as a "consultant" on the project when, in reality, Dubose had "no knowledge or skills that enabled him to act in that capacity," according to the OAG.

Dubose allegedly acted as the middle-man to accept the bribes, disburse them between himself and Metellus, and insulate Metellus from detection.

The $10,000 check was deposited into an account in Dubose's name, while Metellus directed the $315,000 check be postdated to Nov. 5, 2010, by which time he said the company would receive state grant funds.

Morristown & Erie

M&E officials secretly recorded a meeting in which Metellus described the alleged plot to falsely claim a $693,000 bridge rehab project would cost over $1.42 million.

The two men were arrested in September 2010 and indicted in June 2011 on charges of conspiracy, official misconduct, bribery, attempted theft by deception, and false contract payment claims.

Dubose still faces all charges. His trial is scheduled for March.

Rail Exec Indicted

The investigation also led to the April 2012 indictment of M&E's former chief operating officer, Gordon Fuller, and former project manager, Willard Phillips.

Fuller allegedly had M&E submit invoices to "create and reinforce the false impression" that work had been completed on four railroad improvement projects for which the company had received DOT grant funding between January 2003 and August 2010. However, very little of the work had actually been performed, and M&E allegedly received about $804,090 in fraudulent grant funds.

Phillips allegedly participated in the scheme by submitting false claims between 2003 and 2005.

"This is a good example of an investigation in which our efforts to uncover and prosecute one crime led to new leads, which we diligently pursued to charge another crime," said Stephen Taylor, then-director of the Division of Criminal Justice.

The charges against both Fuller and Willard remain pending.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Contracts; Department of Transportation (DOT); Engineers; Fraud; Laws and litigation; North America; Program/Project Management; Rail

Comment from john lienert, (1/14/2015, 7:55 AM)

caught ‘ya.....LOL

Comment from Will Dugger, (1/14/2015, 11:25 AM)

In Canada they would give him a new car and a house no jail in Canada HAHA

Comment from Tony Rangus, (1/14/2015, 12:24 PM)

"He must also forfeit his job, all of his state pension and retirement benefits..." I always thought your pension & retirement benefits were vested, just like social security. If the poor, stupid felon has earned his benefits, why take them away. He paid into the system, so is the state going to give all that money back, or is the illustrious New Jersey Governor going to get the money for his presidential run. This dumb hayseed solicits a bribe and loses everything. But look at all the companies highlighted in PAINTSQUARE NEWS that have killed and/or severely injured their employees due to negligence and they get off with minimal fines that are always contested and the amount lowered. Only in America!!

Comment from Billy Russell, (1/15/2015, 5:31 AM)

Great job, Thank you for doing the right thing , this happens a lot more than we think.

Comment from MICHAEL DEATON, (1/15/2015, 7:22 AM)

This is about the most ignorant person I've seen highlighted on paintsquare. I mean really??? He actually tried to mark the job up 100% and thought no one would catch it??? He must've been smoking something ...

Comment from M. Halliwell, (1/15/2015, 10:52 AM)

Will, though I do agree that we seem to be lighter on criminals up here compared to the US, the professional associations take the "professional" part very seriously. If it were up here, he'd probably only see 1/2 as many charges and be looking at 2 years in jail, tops....but...he'd never work as an engineer again. A breach of ethics of that magnitude would get him kicked out of the profession permanently...only McJobs for him once he got out of jail.

Comment from Kellie Allen, (1/15/2015, 2:50 PM)

Tony, maybe they can spend "his" money on the legal fees it took to investigate and prosecute him.

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