- Associated Press - Thursday, July 28, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A state grand jury has indicted three former Department of Transportation workers in three different kickback schemes at the agency’s Richland County office.

The indictments were handed up last month, but only unsealed Thursday. In one scheme, a supervisor formed a secret company with a neighbor and sent DOT work to it. In the second scheme, a director asked contractors directly for money in exchange for work. In the third scheme, an inspector kept DOT equipment off the books and then sold it, keeping the cash, according to court papers.

“SCDOT has zero tolerance for wrongdoing of any kind,” agency Secretary Christy Hall said in a statement that also thanked investigators.

A number of lawmakers have pushed back on the agency’s request for more money for South Carolina roads, saying they weren’t sure they wanted to send more money if the DOT was being mismanaged.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office is prosecuting the cases. A spokeswoman didn’t know if the men had attorneys.


In one indictment, prosecutors laid out former DOT Field Operations Manager Charles Shirley’s plan to create a company called Pine Ridge Specialty Services with his neighbor, Allen Ray. Ray was also indicted.

For five years, Shirley sent DOT work to Ray’s company. Ray worked in information technology and let Shirley run the firm, essentially acting as a front man to hire Shirley’s involvement, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors estimate the company was paid $360,000 directly and indirectly thought the arrangement. Shirley was charged with criminal conspiracy, misconduct in office and acceptance of rebates or extra compensation, as well as three felony counts of receiving anything of value to influence action of a public employee, which each carry up to 10 years in prison. No one answered the phone at his home.

Shirley worked at the DOT for nearly 18 years, leaving in January.

Ray is charged with criminal conspiracy and a felony count of offering anything of value to influence action of a public employee. No one answered the phone at his home.


In another indictment, former DOT signal shop director Curtis Singleton is accused of demanding three different bribes of $1,000, $1,250 and $1,500 to contractors so they would be picked to install traffic signals between June 2010 and October 2014.

A contractor also sold Singleton a truck for $10,000 below market value so his company could keep working with the DOT and a second contractor marked up the price of cable sold to the agency and Singleton kept most of the profit, according to the indictment.

Singleton is charged with use of official position for financial gain, a felony count of receiving anything of value to influence action of a public employee, misconduct in office and acceptance of rebates or extra compensation. He didn’t respond to a message left by a reporter.

Singleton worked at the agency for 21 years, leaving last August.


Prosecutors said former DOT inspector Joe Butler kept DOT equipment off the books, then sold it for cash and kept the money for himself.

Investigators found 14 times between May 2013 to September 2014 when Butler sold equipment he stole, getting about $14,500, according to the indictment.

Butler mostly sold the equipment needed to run traffic signals. One time, he brought the equipment to a gas station and took $7,000 in cash from a contractor, prosecutors said.

Butler is charged with four counts of felony receiving anything of value to influence action of a public employee, three counts of breach of trust with fraudulent intent and one count of acceptance of rebates or extra compensation. A phone number couldn’t be found for him.

Butler worked for DOT for nearly nine years, leaving in November 2014.


Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP. His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/jeffrey-collins

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