WHEELING – Four individuals and a corporation are facing federal charges for conspiring to steer West Virginia Division of Highways projects to a South Carolina business in exchange for bribes and kickbacks.
U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II announced that Bruce E. Kenney III, Andrew P. Nichols, James Travis Miller and Mark R. Whitt have been charged in the scheme that caused $1.5 million worth of highway work to be routed to Dennis Corporation, which is a Columbia, S.C. engineering consulting firm.
Bayliss and Ramey Inc., a Putnam County highway electrical contractor, has also been charged.
West Virginia Department of Transportation logo | Courtesy of the West Virginia Department of Transportation
Kenney, 60, of Norfolk, Va., allegedly used his position in the Traffic Engineering Division of the DOH to bypass normal state procedures and funnel structure inspection work to Dennis in exchange for covert payments totaling nearly $200,000.
Kenney was charged by Information with honest services wire fraud conspiracy and conspiracy to impede the Internal Revenue Service.
Nichols 38, of Lesage, formerly served as the manager of the West Virginia Division of Dennis while also working as an engineering professor at Marshall University.
He is alleged to have managed the financial relationships of his co-conspirators, to have ensured that payments were made and to have lied to federal agents about his involvement in the scheme.
Nichols was indicted earlier this month on charges of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and money laundering, along with obstructing justice and making false statements.
Miller, 40, of Hurricane, also worked for the DOH before leaving to work for Dennis.
He is alleged to have delivered covert payments to Kenney in exchange for official actions that were done in favor of Dennis. Miller was charged by Information with money laundering conspiracy.
Whitt, 52, of Winfield, was the president and owner of Bayliss and Ramey, which was awarded the statewide signal maintenance contract in 2009.
Whitt allegedly used the contract to funnel construction work to Dennis. He benefited financially for helping to conceal the illegal flow of funds from the DOH to Dennis.
Whitt had filed to run for the Putnam County Commission earlier this year, but dropped out over the summer without an explanation.
Whitt was charged by Information with wire fraud conspiracy.
Bayliss and Ramey submitted invoices with a 20 percent mark-up to ensure that it would be compensated for its role in the scheme. This mark-up by Bayliss and Ramey caused West Virginia to pay a higher price than it should have for engineering services. The corporation was charged by Information with wire fraud conspiracy.
The criminal conduct in the matter occurred from 2008 until 2014. The investigation began in September 2015 when information about the scheme was provided to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Each individual defendant faces the possibility of incarceration.
Ihlenfeld believes more people will be charged in the coming weeks.
Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offense and the criminal history, if any, of each defendant.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jarod J. Douglas and Sarah W. Montoro are prosecuting the case on behalf of the government. The case is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Public Corruption Unit, which includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the West Virginia Commission on Special Investigations, IRS-Criminal Investigation, and the West Virginia State Police.
The investigation is ongoing.