Bribery & Fraud: 9 SEPTA managers, vendors charged in scheme

"Philadelphians deserve public employees who do their jobs honestly," Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams said.

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Thursday, August 12, 2021
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Investigators claim the vendors gave the SEPTA employees cash payments, some as much as $2,000 every month.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Nine SEPTA maintenance workers and vendors have been charged with bribery and fraud.

Federal prosecutors say management-level employees working in SEPTA's Bridges and Buildings Department partnered with two different vendors to steal money from the agency between 2013 and 2019.

Investigators claim the vendors gave the SEPTA employees cash payments, some as much as $2,000 every month.

In exchange for those payments, officials say the vendors illegally billed SEPTA for items that were not provided.

The false charges to SEPTA covered the cash payments, "plus a substantial additional amount to generate fraud proceeds for the vendor," a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office said Wednesday.

SEPTA managers David Abell, 72, of Chincoteague Island, Va.; Stephen Kish, 65, of Philadelphia; Rodney Martinez, 50, of Blackwood, NJ; Jesse Fleck, 43, of Philadelphia; Peter Brauner, 58, of Kintersville, Pa.; James Turner, 59, of Horsham, Pa.; and John Brady, 60, of Blue Bell, Pa.; and vendors Mark Irvello, 56, of Broomall, Pa. and Stanley Woloff, 58, of Philadelphia were charged, Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced.

It is alleged Irvello defrauded SEPTA of more than $540,000, and Woloff defrauded SEPTA of more than $330,000.

Officials say the BBD is responsible for maintaining, repairing, and renovating SEPTA facilities throughout the southeastern Pennsylvania region.

"Philadelphians deserve public employees who do their jobs honestly, without gaming the system to line their own pockets," said Williams. "At a time when SEPTA is facing significant challenges to continue faithfully serving its riders, many of whom have no other reliable, cost-effective transportation options, the defendants' alleged actions perpetrating this fraud scheme are the definition of selfish greed."

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with the assistance of the SEPTA Office of Inspector General.

SEPTA's Internal Audit Division launched an investigation after receiving tips from employees, and the Authority's Inspector General shared the findings with the FBI.