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Pa. attorney general accuses another Norristown ex-PennDOT official in bribery case

"Conflict of interest – restricted activites," a felony

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro Read moreED HILLE / Staff Photographer

A former PennDOT official has been accused of accepting payments from an unnamed private contractor in exchange for paying the contractor with public money "even when the contractor did not perform the work," state Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement today.

The state charged Nicholas Martino with one count of "conflict of interest – restricted activities," a felony. Martino, 53, who turned himself in, waived a preliminary hearing and was released on $10,000 unsecured bail. A message left at his suburban Norristown home was not returned.

The charges followed an investigation that began in 2013, under Shapiro's predecessor, Kathleen Kane, who prosecuted a string of corruption cases against state officials until she herself was sentenced to prison for perjury and abuse of office.

Martino served as Assistant District Executive for PennDOT's District Six, based in Norristown, between 2006 and 2014.

Kane's office "received a tip about corruption" and "a cooperating witness gave evidence against Martino, who oversaw general maintenance and roadside management programs" in his state job.

According to Shapiro's statement, "after a contractor who paid bribes to Martino did not perform the work for which they were paid to do, Martino looked the other way. He even had one Bucks County inspector fired for refusing to approve the work the contractor had not performed."

Following a statewide investigating grand jury, ten PennDOT managers and employees were charged with accepting kickbacks from contractors in exchange for padded payments. Most of the charges were resolved without prison sentences.

In 2016, two Montgomery County contractos pleaded guilty in connection with alleged PennDot bid-rigging schemes emanating from the same Norristown district office, which covers Philadelphia and nearby suburbs. Christopher M. Czop, then 47, president of the Norristown-based engineering and surveying firm Czop Specter Inc., pleaded guilty to one count of bid-rigging. Thanh Nguyen, 62, of King of Prussia, pleaded guilty to one count each of corrupt organizations and theft by deception.  Nguyen, 62, was accused of stealing $3.6 million from PennDot by falsifying and inflating work reports and failing to perform work his firm was hired to do.

Nguyen was one of a dozen people charged in December 2014 in connection with an over-billing scheme that defrauded the state in the Norristown district. Czop,  of Collegeville, was charged in April 2015 with befriending a then-unnamed PennDOT assistant district official to obtain inspection contracts. His company profited from "massive overbilling" by submitting fraudulent mileage and hours on the contract for jobs in Philadelphia, Chester, Bucks, Montgomery, and Delaware counties, state prosecutors alleged.

For those cases, the Attorney General's office presented information to a grand jury recommending criminal charges against PennDot supervisors, inspectors and consultant inspectors accused of a widespread overbilling scheme that defrauded the state. Among the PennDOT defendants, one died before the case came to court and eight others pleaded guilty or have been accepted into a first time offender program.