The former owner of a local bus repair and transportation company in Rockland who was sentenced to more than four years in prison on federal bribery and corruption charges is appealing his conviction.
Richard Brega, who owned Brega D.O.T. Maintenance Corp. in Rockland County, was sentenced to 50 months in prison in December last year after he was found guilty by a federal jury in White Plains, following a three-week trial.
Berga, 52, whose prison term is scheduled to end in 2022, is claiming that the jury verdicts were inconsistent, prompting him to ask for a reversal of his conviction and a new trial, prompting insufficient evidence.
The convictions were for Brega’s billing the Rockland Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) for maintenance of school buses that were never performed, and bribery of a Rockland BOCES official.
Geoffrey Berman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said that Brega defrauded BOCES by falsely claiming to maintain the district’s buses, which were used to transport special-needs students. He then bribed a BOCES employee to approve the false invoices for payment. As a result, Rockland BOCES transported special-needs students on deteriorating, unmaintained buses as Brega got paid.
To create the fraudulent invoices, and to obtain payment from Rockland BOCES for work that was never performed, Brega allegedly bribed William Popkave – who oversaw upkeep and maintenance of its buses – with tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of free personal vehicle repairs.
Popkave allegedly sent Brega lists of buses and their mileages so that Brega could create fraudulent invoices and supporting documentation, and thereafter approved payment of the fraudulent invoices at Rockland BOCES, even though Popkave and Brega knew that the buses had not even been to Brega DOT on the days for which Brega DOT billed Rockland BOCES, and had not received Preventative Maintenance inspections.
Brega is now arguing that prosecutors’ witnesses gave “highly problematic testimony,” and delivered inaccurate and misleading descriptions of the law to the jury.
Brega was ultimately convicted on charges that include mail fraud, bribery concerning a program receiving federal funds and theft from a program receiving federal funds. Popkave, 63, also pleaded guilty to five criminal charges related to the scheme.
“The successful prosecution of Richard Brega demonstrates the commitment of the federal government to rooting out corruption and fraud in Rockland County and throughout the Hudson Valley,” Berman said at his sentencing. “The taxpayers and the schoolchildren and their families there deserve far better than the criminal scheming Brega gave them. The sentence imposed today serves a stern reminder that the criminal path Brega chose leads to one place: prison.”
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