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Former Metro-North manager accused of rigging bids for waste disposal business

A former Metro-North Railroad manager from Glen Cove teamed up with another Long Islander, prosecutors said, in a scheme to rig bids and steer business to a waste disposal business that netted the firm $10 million in contracts.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said James Berlangero, 62, of Glen Cove, a one-time Metro-North contract manager, received up to $70,000 in kickbacks for helping Yaphank-based WRS Environmental Services secure contracts with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Metro-North unit from 2015 to 2019.

Berlangero was indicted along with WRS owner Michael Rodgers, 62, of Wading River, and Thomas Willis, 60, the firm’s director of business development, Vance said in a news release.

“Asbestos abatement and regulated waste removal are serious public health and safety matters, particularly when it comes to facilities like Grand Central that hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and visitors use every day,” Vance said. “As alleged in the indictment, this Metro-North contract manager engaged in an extensive bid-rigging scheme which made it difficult for honest companies to compete for highly valued government contracts. Armed with confidential information like competitors’ price proposals and evaluations, WRS Environmental Services was able to win contracts valued at more than $10 million, all thanks to their inside man.”

The case was handled as a joint investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Rackets Bureau and the Office of the MTA Inspector General.

The defendants’ attorneys could not be reached for comment.

“These individuals shamelessly lined their pockets at the expense of riders, taxpayers and Metro-North by criminally sharing confidential and competitive project information to undercut the competition,” said MTA Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny. “Such an arrangement is considered bid-rigging and violates the fundamental tenets of good government contracting, leading to inflated costs to the government and by extension, taxpayers and riders.”

Authorities said Berlangero, who worked in the Metro-North's procurement and material management department, undermined the process by which the MTA is supposed to award contracts.

“Berlangero was tasked with ensuring the integrity of Metro-North’s contracts and free competition on contract solicitations, including Requests for Proposals,” they said. “Instead, working out of his office at Metro-North’s midtown headquarters, he unlawfully helped his co-defendants secure contracts in exchange for various kickbacks totaling more than $70,000.”

They said Berlangero received over $32,000 for his mortgage, $10,000 for his brother-in-law’s auto racing sponsorship, a more than $8,000 cash deposit in his credit union account and six other checks totaling more than $19,000.

Berlangero was charged with first-degree corrupting the government, second-degree bribe receiving and contracts and agreements for monopoly and in restraint of trade, officials said.

Rodgers was charged with first-degree corrupting the government, second-degree bribery and contracts and agreements for monopoly and in restraint of trade, officials said.

Willis was charged with first-degree corrupting the government, contracts and agreements for monopoly and in restraint of trade, officials said.

MTA senior adviser Ken Lovett said in a prepared statement Friday night that Berlangero was brought up on disciplinary charges and resigned, and that the MTA was freezing any open contracts with WSR.

"The MTA has zero tolerance for any violation of the public’s trust and if this employee committed these acts, he should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law," Lovett said, adding, "We have reviewed our internal procedures and that review indicates that this was an isolated case of a single, rogue employee." 

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