A Department of Transportation official was sentenced to 18 months in prison Thursday after pleading guilty to accepting bribes from the trucking companies he was supposed to be inspecting, a felony under U.S. law. In addition to the prison sentence, James H. Wood, 45, of Delevan, New York, was also ordered to forfeit $41,300 to the federal government.
Wood served as a former field office supervisor for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in Buffalo, N.Y. In January 2011, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged him with accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribe money “in exchange for initiating complaint audits that could put a company out of business, or for giving favorable audits to other firms,” the Buffalo News reported.
From 2008 through 2011, Wood also accepted bribes from consultants working for Canadian trucking companies. In exchange, Wood postponed safety inspections and ensured those companies would receive satisfactory ratings, thereby allowing potentially dangerous trucks to travel U.S. highways and roads. Additionally, Wood provided consultants with internal agency information, including lists of other trucking companies scheduled to be audited.
“The agency involved in this case is dedicated to keeping the nation’s roadways safe. By accepting bribes, this defendant not only abused his position of public trust, he also potentially put those who use public highways at risk,” U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. said in the statement.
The conviction is the result of an investigation by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, Investigation Division. The Buffalo News reports that “emails between Wood and a cooperating witness were part of the evidence that led to his arrest.”