Robert Pryce also Sentenced for Corrupt Activities while Bankruptcy Trustee
LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – An attorney who served as the primary intermediary between corrupt members of the Carson City Council and waste-hauling companies they were trying to extort was sentenced this afternoon to 80 months in federal prison.
Robert Dennis Pryce Jr., 55, of Tarzana, a partner in Pryce Parker Hill LLP, was sentenced for his role in the Carson corruption case, as well as a separate case in which he admitted a series of corrupt actions while serving as a trustee in United States Bankruptcy Court.
Pryce was sentenced by United States District Judge Percy Anderson, who told defendant that his conduct was fueled by greed and that he had abused his position of trust to line his own pockets. Judge Anderson indicated that he was imposing the 80- month sentence because it was necessary to deter this type of conduct.
Pryce pleaded guilty on August 14, 2003 to the charges in both cases. In the Carson corruption case, Pryce pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy, two counts of paying bribes, six counts of “honest services” mail fraud, conspiring to launder money and six substantive counts of money laundering. Pryce admitted that he was involved in a scheme to extort money from both Waste Management, Inc. and Browning Ferris Industries, Inc. – two companies interesting in securing the waste-hauling contract with the city. While officials at Waste Management declined Pryce’s overtures, employees at BFI did enter into an agreement to pay $585,000 to secure three City Council votes to award the contract to BFI.
In the second case involving his illegal activities as a Bankruptcy Trustee, Pryce pleaded guilty to nine counts of “honest services” mail fraud, nine counts of bankruptcy fraud for filing documents with the Bankruptcy Court that failed to disclose his financial arrangements with people paying him kickbacks, four counts of making false statements to the Bankruptcy Court for failing to disclose a kickback arrangement and 10 counts of money laundering. In this case, Pryce took payments from a real estate company and from a contractor who made repairs at properties that were part of bankruptcy estates under his management.
Pryce entered into an agreement with real estate firm Nelson Shelton and Associates to sell properties from various estates over which Pryce was the trustee. As part of the agreement, Nelson Shelton agreed to “hire” Pryce’s daughter, Kelly Walecki, and to pay her one-half of the commissions generated by the sales of the properties even though she would not be involved in the transactions. During a three-year period that began in May 1999, Nelson Shelton paid Walecki more than $310,000 in commissions, and she in turn gave her father more than $130,000 of this money.
Pryce also took kickbacks from Scorza and Sons Construction Services in exchange for giving the company work on various properties that were part of the bankruptcy estates under his management. In one example, Pryce required Scorza and Sons to perform work for free at his home and the homes of his mother and sister.
The cases against Pryce were investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which received the assistance of the United States Trustee’s Office.