The owner of a fleet maintenance business was arrested on Thursday for allegedly bribing a Rockland school agency employee to approve payments for school bus repairs that were never done.
Richard Brega, 49, of Tomkins Cove, was indicted on charges of mail fraud, theft of federal funds, bribery and obstruction of justice. He operates Brega D.O.T. Maintenance Corp. in Valley Cottage.
He pleaded not guilty to U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith C. McCarthy, in federal court, White Plains, and was released on bail.
William Popkave, 61, of Nanuet, pleaded guilty to the same charges. He oversaw bus maintenance for the Rockland Board of Cooperative Educational Services, a consortium of eight school districts that pools resources and shares costs of educational services.
The agency receives as much as $1 million a year in federal funding.
Brega’s company was responsible for providing preventative maintenance and repairs on a fleet of buses operated by the school agency, from around 2008 through 2015. Some of buses were used to transport physically disabled students.
Brega bribed Popkave with free vehicle repairs totaling about $47,000, according to the indictments, for Popkave, his family and friends.
The Brega indictment refers to an unnamed third conspirator, employed by Brega.
The government says Popkave emailed information about buses and mileage to Brega, in exchange for the free repairs. Brega then allegedly created fraudulent invoices and billed the agency for $86,000 for preventative maintenance on buses that were never brought in for service. Popkave approved the payments.
Brega is also accused of routinely overcharging for labor and parts on services that were done.
The government says Brega created fake invoices and deceptive money transactions to conceal bribes to Popkave.
Brega D.O.T. is part of Brega Enterprises. The company boasts on its website that it is one of the largest public transportation facilities in the state.
Brega did not respond to voicemail messages that were left on his home and work telephones, requesting comment.
Administrators of the school agency were unaware of the wrongdoing, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a press release.
He said investigators from the FBI, U.S. Department of Transportation and Rockland County District Attorney also worked on the case.