A Philadelphia Water Department supervisor stole more than $164,000 worth of taxpayer-purchased equipment and sold it at scrapyards for profit, federal authorities said Wednesday.
Prosecutors said Thomas Staszak, 46, of Philadelphia, used his coworkers’ log-on credentials to submit requests for equipment between 2017 and 2018, including bales of bulk wire from warehouses the department maintains across the city. The equipment was intended for use repairing and maintaining the city’s water systems.
“The Philadelphia Water Department is charged with providing clean, safe water for millions of residents and businesses, and protecting the region’s water resources, all on a limited budget,” acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams said in a statement. Staszak’s “alleged actions took money and resources directly out of the hands of taxpayers and into his own pocket,” she said.
Neither Staszak, a five-year Water Department veteran who city officials said was fired as a result of the investigation, nor his attorney immediately responded to requests for comment Wednesday.
The 11-count indictment charging him with theft and computer fraud also points to irregularities in the Water Department’s system for tracking inventory, which Staszak allegedly exploited.
For instance, all Water Department employees are granted log-on credentials when they are hired and given a standard password, which they are instructed to change.
Staszak, prosecutors said, was able to access some of his coworkers’ accounts by using that standard password on accounts for which the workers had failed to change it.
What’s more, when submitting a request for equipment, department employees are supposed to sign a printed copy of the request as proof that they received it.
Investigators with the FBI and the city’s Inspector General’s Office said no such records were submitted for the equipment Staszak is accused of stealing.
If convicted, Staszak could face up to 20 years in prison on the most serious count he is facing, as well as fines of up to $2.7 million.