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Maragos: Contractor bilked Nassau of as much as $322G

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos on June 12,

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos on June 12, 2013. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Bay Shore contractor that Nassau County hired to repair and refurbish trucks, buses and heavy equipment overbilled the county by as much as $322,000 and possibly more through falsified or altered invoices, according to County Comptroller George Maragos.

Nassau Suffolk Truck has been paid $2.5 million by the county since 2009, largely through contracts to fix and maintain Department of Public Works and Police Department vehicles and to paint and repair Nassau Inter-County Express [NICE] buses.

Auditors discovered at least $322,258 in allegedly fraudulent claims, in a scheme Maragos called "brazen in scope." Maragos said that "may be just the tip of the iceberg," because his office examined less than 10 percent of the 283 claims submitted by the contractor.

Brian Nevin, a spokesman for Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, said the county has halted all payments to the company and referred the findings to Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice for possible criminal prosecution.

Shams Tarek, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, said "the allegations are being investigated by this office."

Telephone and email messages left with company owner Kirk Lombardi were not returned.

NICE spokesman Andy Kraus said the bus system will "assist" with the probe.

Nassau Suffolk Truck, which also does business as Big Trucks Corp. and Plug-In Trucks, has worked for the Town of Hempstead since at least 1989, town spokesman Mike Deery said. While complete financial records were not immediately available, the town paid the company $216,527 since 2013 for truck repainting and refurbishment.

Deery said the town has had no "issues concerning fraudulent billing" with the company.

New York City's Transportation, Sanitation and Fire departments have paid the firm $84,746 since 2010 for vehicle supplies and repairs, according to a city contracting website.

And the Town of Islip's Department of Environmental Control hired the firm in April to refurbish a water truck. The company was paid $19,655. "There has not been any indication that there were irregularities in billing," Islip spokeswoman Trish Kaloski said.

The investigation began last year when Maragos' staff found five time sheets, submitted with Nassau Suffolk Truck invoices, that showed "possible overbilling of labor hours," with one employee working on five vehicles at the same time and day, the report said.

Subsequently, auditors randomly examined 26 Nassau Suffolk Truck claim invoices and found all were "fraudulent."

Auditors ended the inquiry after analyzing the 26 vouchers to expedite the district attorney's criminal investigation, the report said.

For example, the company submitted an invoice to the county for $2,386 for 12 spray liner kits, used to coat truck beds, that it purchased from a store in Bohemia. Auditors who visited the store found only 2 kits were purchased for $580.

The firm billed Nassau $315, plus a 25 percent markup, for a motor -- when it actually only purchased a belt that sells for less than $40, auditors found.

Some stores told auditors that company invoices presented to the county had phony claim numbers. In other instances, auditors learned that zeros had been added to claim vouchers, altering the quantity of a part that was ordered.

Maragos criticized DPW for accepting inadequate documentation from the firm, such as price quotes, rather than proof of the price paid for parts.

Lombardi has donated $127,435 to GOP and Democratic candidates since 2010, state Board of Election records show. Lombardi contributed $24,225 to Mangano, a Republican; $28,825 to the Nassau Republican Committee and $11,800 to the Hicksville Republican Committee, run by Deputy County Executive Rob Walker, records show.

With Matthew Chayes

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