US Attorney – Two Former NYC Education Department Bus Inspectors Guilty of Bribery Charges

LawFuel – Legal Newswire – LEV L. DASSIN, the Acting United States Attorney for
the Southern District of New York, announced that two former
employees of the New York City Department of Education (“DOE”),
NEIL CREMIN and IRA SOKOL, pleaded guilty today before United
States Magistrate Judge ANDREW J. PECK in Manhattan federal court
to bribery charges. According to the Indictment, to Count Four
of which CREMIN and SOKOL pleaded guilty, and other documents
filed in the proceeding:

CREMIN, 61, of Queens, New York and SOKOL, 70, of
Brooklyn, New York, worked as supervisors and inspectors in the
DOE Office of Pupil Transportation (“OPT”). OPT sets the
specifications for bus routes; oversees the process by which
private bus companies bid for and obtain certain bus routes;
processes requests from bus companies to have certain routes
classified as “extended” (and hence more costly) because they
begin earlier or run later than standard DOE bus times; and
conducts safety and mechanical inspections of school buses.
CREMIN and SOKOL were specifically assigned to the OPT division
responsible for providing bus and other transportation services
to special education students.

From at least the mid-1990s until 2007, CREMIN and SOKOL
solicited and accepted cash payments from various private bus
company owners who held transportation contracts with DOE. In
some instances, the defendants used their official positions
within DOE to collect payments from bus company owners in exchange
for various benefits relating to OPT business. For example, the
defendants took cash payments from bus company owners to falsely
classify certain bus routes as “extended” routes, and in
connection with the allocation of certain DOE bus routes to those
companies. The defendants also collected payments in exchange for
favorable treatment relating to school bus safety violations
uncovered during inspections, and providing advance notice of
safety inspections that were supposed to be unannounced. In some
instances, the defendants knew that the bus company owners were
making payments in the belief that they would receive improper
benefits in exchange, but the defendants could not in fact
deliver those benefits. In other instances, the payments were
not connected to any particular benefit, but were intended to
secure the goodwill of the defendants. The defendants and other
OPT employees collected cash payments from several hundred
dollars per year from certain bus company owners, to tens of
thousands of dollars per year from other bus company owners.
CREMIN and SOKOL pleaded guilty to one count of
receiving bribes to influence their action as employees of an
agency, the DOE, that received federal program funding. They face
maximum sentences of 10 years on that charge.

The Indictment also charges a former OPT employee,
GEORGE ORTIZ, 63, of the Bronx, New York, and a present OPT
employee, MILTON SMITH, 55, of Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania, with
offenses relating to solicitation and extortion of bribes and
payments relating to their functions at DOE. ORTIZ and SMITH are
scheduled to commence trial on February 23, 2009, in front of the
United States District Judge BARBARA S. JONES. The charges
contained in the Indictment as to these defendants are merely
accusations, and they are presumed innocent unless and until
proven guilty.

Mr. DASSIN praised the work of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector
General and Office of Labor-Management Standards, and the New
York Police Department, as well as the Special Commissioner of
Investigation for the New York City School District.
Assistant United States Attorneys ELIE HONIG and
KENNETH POLITE are in charge of the prosecution.
09-020 ###

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