Guilty Plea in University Painting Bribe Case
A former university maintenance supervisor has admitted to taking bribes from a painting contractor in exchange for more than $1 million in dorm painting contracts.
Authorities say Dean Yerry, 63, who formerly lived in Sloan, New York, pleaded guilty Tuesday (Feb. 21) to receiving as much as $100,000 in bribes while employed at the State University of New York University at Buffalo (UB).
He was charged and arrested in September 2016 with bribe receiving in the second degree, a felony, in New York State Supreme Court in Buffalo, according to the New York State Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott. He will remain out on bail pending his sentencing, which is set for May 2.
Yerry faced a maximum of 5 to 15 years in prison, according to prosecutors.
Year of Bribes
From the end of 2012 through November 2014, Yerry, who served as the campus living maintenance supervisor, received payments from a contractor in exchange for helping the contractor to win painting contracts for student living facilities at the school, according to authorities.
The painter received in excess of $1 million for two dorm-painting contracts, and the investigation found Yerry was to receive at least $100,000 in kickbacks.
Yerry retired in November 2014 and moved to Henderson, Nevada, before the crimes were uncovered.
The Inspector General’s office did not name the painting contractor involved in the case; however, a local news outlet reported that the painter was “a neighbor and friend” who had previously performed house painting work for Yerry. A later report identified the man as Yerry's “poker buddy” Joseph LoVetro. Public tax documents confirm LoVetro provided painting services for the university.
He was not a professional commercial painter, Buffalo News reported, citing Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn Jr.
“He was a solo operator,” Flynn said. “A ‘come to my house and paint my house’ kind of painter.”
As a painter with little familiarity of state contracts, LoVetro failed to file required paperwork, Buffalo News reported.
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The bribery was discovered due to missing payroll paperwork, reports said.
Missing monthly payroll records for the state contracts prompted an investigation by the Department of Labor into whether LoVetro was violating New York’s prevailing wage regulations, the report said.
Eventually, the bidding issues were uncovered and the painter reportedly pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for the payroll offenses.
Abuse of Power
“[Yerry] abused his position to subvert the government procurement process to greedily and brazenly enrich himself while giving his favored contractor an unfair advantage,” Leahy Scott said in a statement.
“He violated the public trust and I will continue to use my office to pursue anyone who uses their official position for criminal means.”
Yerry was employed at UB in 1985 and became a supervisor in 1994. The Buffalo News reported he received accolades for his skill and work ethic, including a "Building Engineer of the Year" award from the Greater Buffalo Building Owners & Managers Association.
The New York State Department of Labor assisted in the investigation. The Erie County District Attorney’s Office prosecuted the matter.