OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Officials with a Florida-based company hired to remove paint from Oklahoma bridges and a state bridge inspector accused of accepting money and gifts from the company are facing bribery charges.
Michael Alan Zacker, 37, of Oklahoma City told investigators he accepted plane tickets from M.B.E. Inc., the company he was hired to inspect, and felt he owed the company a favor, a state environmental inspector reported in court papers.
Zacker allowed M.B.E. employees to improperly sandblast a bridge and falsified reports about their work, according to court papers.
Zacker, Fani Gialousis, 49, president of M.B.E. Inc., and Manuel Gialousis, 28, a project supervisor for M.B.E., were charged last week in Oklahoma County District Court with four counts of bribery.
``I would say the bribery issue came about because of an unfortunate combination of someone willing to pay and someone willing to take,'' said Norman Hill, general counsel for the Transportation Department.
Officials with M.B.E. also face charges in Oklahoma, Cimarron and McClain counties for environmental violations, Hill said.
Investigators found significant quantities of lead paint chips on the ground near the site Zacker was supposed to inspect. A sample contained hazardous waste due to extremely high lead content, according to court papers.
M.B.E., based in Holiday, Fla., was hired for 36 projects in the state between 1997 and 2003. The company has been paid nearly $4 million for completed projects, according to Transportation Department reports. All but two projects have been completed.
In 2002, Zacker was inspecting an M.B.E. job on State Highway 1 over the Washita River in Johnston County.
According to court papers, Zacker took airline tickets to New Orleans from Manuel Gialousis. He told investigators he only spent five days at the job site during the 17 days the project lasted, papers stated. A search of M.B.E.'s offices produced Fani Gialousis' credit card statements that showed the purchase of airline tickets for Zacker.
Hill said investigators believe Zacker accepted bribes worth about $10,000.
Zacker was sentenced in September in federal court to a year and a day in prison for conspiring to improperly dispose of waste with the owner of another company hired for bridge work.