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PennDOT contractor earned more than $1 million through alleged fraud, bid rigging scheme

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HARRISBURG – Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane today announced criminal charges against the president of an engineering company accused of securing more than $1 million in profits for his business through improper and illegal contracts with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

The charges against Christopher M. Czop, 45, are the result of an ongoing investigation into alleged corruption and fraud involving PennDOT District 6, which includes Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.

Attorney General Kane last year announced charges against a dozen other individuals in connection with PennDOT District 6.

“Our investigation has shown the actions of these individuals have cost the Commonwealth millions of dollars,” Attorney General Kane said. “We will continue to investigate this matter to ensure taxpayer money is being spent appropriately.”

Czop is president and principal operating officer of CZOP Specter, Inc. The charges against him were recommended by a statewide investigating grand jury, which found Czop engaged in criminal conduct in obtaining and executing several consultant inspection contracts with PennDOT’s District 6.

Testimony before the grand jury showed Czop took steps to cultivate a relationship with District 6’s Assistant District Engineer (ADE), who wielded vast and virtually unchecked power within the district to award contracts for PennDOT. The ADE was unnamed in the grand jury presentment.

The evidence showed that Czop entered into an agreement with a close personal friend of the ADE, which was purportedly a consulting contract. In reality, however, the agreement was simply a method to secure contracts from the ADE, the grand jury presentment alleged.

All told, CZOP Specter, Inc. and a related minority business sent more than $130,000 to the ADE’s friend, which, in turn, resulted in Czop being awarded at least four separate PennDOT consultant contracts, the grand jury presentment alleged. It was also discovered that Czop, after obtaining the contracts, placed individuals on his payroll on those contracts as personal favors to the ADE and other PennDOT supervisors, the grand jury presentment concluded.

Some of those individuals were allegedly unqualified for the positions that Czop gave them. It is also alleged that Czop fired individuals from his payroll at the request or direction of the ADE.

The grand jury presentment also details how Czop eventually developed his relationship with the ADE to the point where Czop was purportedly assisting in drafting a potential bridge cleaning inspection contract.

Testimony before the grand jury alleged that it was known CZOP Specter, Inc. would be awarded this contract several months prior to it even being advertised. Czop was in fact awarded the contract in the summer of 2011.

Moreover, during the course of the execution of the bridge cleaning inspection contract, Czop is alleged to have directed supervisors working in his company to order his inspectors to approve the contractors billing eight-hour days even when the actual amount of hours worked on the jobs were far less.

Czop, 300 Arcola Road, Upper Providence Township, Montgomery County, is charged with two counts of corrupt organizations and one count each of theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, criminal conspiracy to commit theft, tampering with public records, dealing with proceeds of unlawful activities and bid rigging.

The charges Attorney General Kane announced in December against 10 individuals for their alleged roles in a widespread overbilling scheme involving PennDOT District 6 defrauded at least $1.2 million from Pennsylvania taxpayers.

That followed the arrest four months earlier of PennDOT contractor, Thanh Nguyen, for allegedly stealing at least $3.6 million by submitting false invoices. Nguyen also bribed a CZOP inspector, Robert Slamon, to ignore his own fraud, according to a grand jury presentment.

Attorney General Kane thanked the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General, the Chief Counsel’s Office for PennDOT and other PennDOT personnel for their cooperation with the investigation of Czop.