Company president sentenced in pollution case

Saturday, October 8th 2005, 11:37 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A federal judge has sentenced the president of a painting company to 16 months in prison and fined him $10,000 for improperly disposing of old paint containing lead. Prosecutors said he bribed an inspector to cover up the illegal activities.

U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton sentenced Drossos J. Tiliakos, 61, of Tarpon Springs, Fla., on Friday. He also fined Tiliakos' Houston-based company, J&N International Coatings, Inc., $20,000, the U.S. attorney's office said. Tiliakos pleaded guilty to violating environmental laws after prosecutors agreed to drop charges that he bribed an inspector.

The company was accused of dumping paint blasted off two Interstate 44 bridges at a landfill not authorized to handle such waste. It would have cost more to dump the paint in a proper facility.

The inspector, Michael Zacker, 37, of Oklahoma City, pleaded guilty in a separate case to conspiring with Tiliakos to falsify test results and documents and was sentenced to 12 months in federal prison.

Zacker worked for Pittsburgh-based KTA-Tator Inc., which was hired by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to supervise the bridge repainting jobs and ensure waste was disposed of properly.

The original indictment against Tiliakos accused him of offering $10,000 in bribes to Zacker, and paying $7,000 of that total.

Nikoleta M. Tiliakos, 30, of Houston, Texas, the secretary treasurer of J&N International, pleaded guilty to concealing the bribes and was sentenced to two years probation and a $2,500 fine.

Prosecutors pursued the case after the Oklahoma Department of Transportation notified them about the wrongdoing.

Norman Hill, the department's general counsel, said this is one of three cases in Oklahoma that have come to light involving painting companies that have violated environmental rules in transportation projects.

He said he believes that KTA-Tator Inc., the company Zacker worked for, is not currently inspecting any projects for the department, but there's nothing to stop the department from contracting with them again.

``This was an act of one of their employees,'' Hill said. ``We didn't view that as a corporate wrongdoing other than we felt they should have had closer watch over their employees.''

Hill also said he sees no particular problem in the department's use of contract inspectors, and that state-employed inspectors have taken bribes in other states in the past.

``I don't know that there is a horrendous flaw in the system of using contract inspectors,'' he said, ``and in some cases that's just the way you have to do it when you have a number of projects in an area and you don't have the personnel numerically to cover it all.''