A veteran employee of the Department of Public Works today pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from commercial trash haulers for more than three decades.
William Charles Nemec Sr. also admitted to participating in a scheme in which city employees stole scrap metal from a public landfill for personal gain in a plea agreement announced by the U.S. Attorney for Maryland, Rod J. Rosenstein.
The 55-year-old Nemec started working for DPW in 1984 as a scalehouse cashier at the Cold Spring Lane Landfill.
New on the job, he participated with other cashiers in regularly accepting bribes from commercial haulers in lieu of charging disposal fees, according to the U.S. attorney.
Transferred in the same year to Quarantine Road Landfill in far South Baltimore, Nemec started what would become three decades of bribe taking.
“Except for short periods of time over the years since 1984, and despite the comings and goings of new scalehouse employees and supervisors at the landfill, Nemec. . . continued to execute the bribery scheme until [his] arrest on May 12, 2015,” federal prosecutors said.
Starting around 13 years ago, Nemec executed his scheme in tandem with two scalehouse operators, accepting $100 bribe payments from large haulers for each truckload of trash dumped at the landfill.
By not entering a truck’s registration number into the computerized scale, Nemec and fellow employees saved commercial haulers “many hundreds of dollars per trip to the landfill,” according to Rosenstein.
“To maintain the pretense that the trucks had been weighed and the disposal fee paid, Nemec and others would hand the truck drivers fake or blank receipts when they crossed the outbound scale,” Rosenstein said.
The scheme cost Baltimore City more than $6 million in lost revenue, according to federal prosecutors.
(In its original indictment, the U.S. attorney’s office pointed out that a uniformed Baltimore police officer was assigned to protect the scalehouse and make sure receipts collected daily at the landfill were safely delivered to a city bank account.)
Nemec has agreed to pay restitution of $6 million, according to the government, and faces a maximum prison sentence of five years for conspiracy and 10 years for bribery when sentenced later this year.
Illegal “Junking” Scheme
In addition to bribes from commercial haulers, Nemec was typically paid $20 a day from landfill laborers to falsely represent to the DPW that the laborers were performing their city jobs – “when, in fact, they used their paid positions during work hours to unlawfully collect and sell scrap metal for personal gain.”
This practice, known as “junking,” has been alleged to take place at city dump sites for decades.
According to prosecutors, the laborers used personal cell phone to let each other know when and where recyclable scrap metals were being dumped at the landfill.
After collecting piles of the scrap metal at several locations, the laborers would use their private pick-up trucks to carry the metal to a salvage company, frequently making several trips during a single work shift.
The stolen scrap metal they sold to the salvage company for cash has resulted in a loss of revenue of several $100,000 to the city, prosecutors said.
Last month, ex-DPW employee Tamara O. Washington and two commercial haulers pleaded guilty to their participation in the bribery scheme. All three face prison terms when they are sentenced later this year.