LIC man arrested in DEP fraud scheme: City

By Sarina Trangle

A Long Island City man was among three former city Department of Environmental Protection employees charged in a decade-long bribery scheme and accused of pocketing lavish gifts from a Houston business in exchange for renewing its contracts, city investigators said.

The city Department of Investigation announced last week that former DEP transportation section chief Dennis Jones, of Long Island City, was arrested following investigators’ probe of Flo Trend System Inc’s $14 worth of water treatment holding containers and maintenance contracts with the agency from 1998 to 2012.

Jones was responsible for drafting Flo Trends’ contract specifications and approving its purchase orders. He allegedly accepted New York Yankee tickets, a Las Vegas vacation, a Montauk fishing trip and gas cards from the Houston filtration business, investigators said. They contend he instructed Flo Trend to submit fraudulent purchase orders for cell phones and related service plans, and then halted billing and slowed work on a contract when Flo Trend did not comply.

“DOI’s investigation uncovered a bribery scheme that benefited everyone but the city, and defrauded the taxpayers of tens of thousands of dollars,” DOI Commissioner Mark Peters said in a statement.

The Queens district attorney’s office, which is prosecuting the case, had not identified Jones’ attorney as of press time.

Jones began working at DEP in 1990 and earned a $104,570 annual salary when he resigned amid the investigation in September 2013, the DOI said.

In addition to Jones, investigators said Bhaskar Sil, a former DEP project manager, and Thomas Bentsen, an ex-DEP transportation chief, were arrested and charged with bribe receiving, receiving reward for official misconduct, official misconduct and receiving unlawful gratuities.

The $175,000 in electronics, vacations and other perks allegedly used to bribe the trio were underwritten by about $90,000 that investigators contend was defrauded from DEP through phony purchase orders.

Sil’s and Bentsen’s lawyers were not immediately known.

The Department of Investigation said Flo Trend and its vice president, Carl Russell Caughman, were previously arrested and charged with bribery and giving unlawful gratuities.

The business declined to comment, and its lawyers at Bracewell and Biuliani in Texas did not immediately return a request for comment.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle by e-mail at stran‌gle@c‌ngloc‌al.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.

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