By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- They're accused of inflating city invoices and bribing employees in order to get contracts for street and bridge projects. When the indictments were unsealed in federal court on Thursday, they unleashed a fury of outrage. The city employee at the center of the scandal is Albert Martinez, a manager in Tulsa's Public Works Department, making $106,000.
Federal prosecutors say greed took hold and Martinez took in hundreds of thousands more in bribes. The first indictment accuses the president and accountant of FBS, Kenneth Shoemaker and Stuart Franklin of giving cash payments to Albert Martinez in exchange for steering city contracts to their company.
It says, for example, Shoemaker gave Martinez $5,000 in June of 2008 and $7,500 a month later. It says Franklin gave Martinez $6,150 on September 18th that same year and $3,850 in December.
"I find it quite appalling and it disgusts me when a public official betrays the trust and confidence of the citizens of the U.S.," said the FBI's James Finch.
The second indictment accuses Max Wolf, the president of Horizon construction of giving Martinez inflated invoices and Martinez either approved them or doctored them.
"These invoices were intercepted by Martinez, clipped off the signature of the supervisor, dummied up an inflated invoice, pasted the signature on, made copies and invoices went through as if approved by an appropriate supervisor," said U.S. Attorney David O'Meilia.
Plus, Wolf is accused of paying Martinez big bribes by check. For example, he allegedly paid more than $14,000 in July of 2008, more than $23,000 a month later and another $23,000 the next month.
The third indictment says between May and October of 2007, Harlan Yocham with Yocham Enterprises in Sapulpa gave Martinez two separate bribes, one for $7,000 and one for $10,000 for assistance with city contracts.
And, the fourth indictment accuses another former city employee, Larry Baker.
He's accused of giving a $9,000 bribe for the awarding of an inspection contract to widen 36th Street North.
The government is going after more than $4 million from the men, plus a long list of properties all over Green Country and in Wyoming.
"In this difficult economy, our job is to follow the money and we do our best to ensure the proceeds that are ill-gotten get back into the hands of people who deserve to have them," said Michael Lahey with the IRS Criminal Division.
Despite all graft, the feds say our roads and bridges are safe. They didn't find any evidence of problems with the design, construction or inspections that took place on the jobs.
The investigation has been top secret for the past two years. The feds wouldn't reveal how they first found out about the alleged bribes.
The four businessmen named in the indictments belonged to the Association of Oklahoma General Contractors. The association provided a written statement saying it plans to assist the FBI in any way possible. The executive director said while members are contractors, they're also Oklahoma taxpayers who expect state money to be well-spent.