John C. Gallagher Jr. could influence who got contracts, as director of buildings and grounds for the New Rochelle school district; and he abused that position to solicit bribes.
On Wednesday, Gallagher was sentenced to prison for 37 months for his part in the scheme. U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Karas also ordered him to forfeit $125,000, the amount of money he took in kickbacks.
Gallagher, 53, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, had pleaded guilty and had asked the court for leniency: three years of supervised release with six months of home confinement.
He is deeply embarrassed and remorseful for what he did, said his attorney, Susanne Brody. The crime was nonviolent and there is “virtually no risk for recidivism.”
Prosecutors Benjamin Allee and Kathryn Martin recommended a prison term of 37 to 46 months, to send a message that public corruption will not be tolerated.
Gallagher betrayed the school district and undermined public trust, they said. The crime was not trivial. There were numerous bribes, from 2009 to 2013. And the conduct ceased only when the contractor left and “the bribe well ran dry.”
The government depicted Gallagher as an active schemer who “chose to seek, arrange for and grab kickbacks for years.”
Gallagher presented himself as a more passive participant, in a letter to the judge.
“I was unable to resist the temptation of the money being offered to me,” he wrote.
Gallagher was employed by Aramark Management Services, which had a contract with the schools, where he worked full-time as Director of Environmental Services.
The district has yearly agreements with “time and materials” contractors who handle small projects and, in emergencies, larger projects.
Gallagher did not choose contractors, but he could influence the choices.
Zonzini Mason Contractors of New Rochelle was hired for masonry jobs. After the firm was paid for work, the government said, Gallagher would meet Mauro Zonzini in a parking lot and accept 10 percent kickbacks. Dozens of bribes were paid over a four-year period, totaling $125,000.
Gallagher concealed the payments by keeping the money in his car trunk and by not depositing it in a bank account.
The government said he used his ill-gotten gains to pay for living expenses, credit card payments and car payments. He used kickbacks to pay for “some college,” according to a secretly taped conversation, in apparent reference to his two sons who have attended Pennsylvania State University.
Zonzini, 52, of South Carolina, has pleaded guilty to bribing a public official and tax evasion. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday.