A former MARTA administrator faces a federal charge for an alleged scheme that bilked the agency out of more than $500,000.
Joseph Erves, MARTA’s former senior director of operations, allegedly used false invoices in which the agency paid for maintenance work that was never performed.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta, Erves funneled most of the money into his personal bank accounts. He allegedly used it to buy a Porsche 911 and for personal expenses at high-end department stores.
“Erves was entrusted to safeguard the taxpayer funds used to run our public transportation authority, and instead he is charged with stealing half a million dollars to buy a Porsche and other high-end purchases,” U.S. Attorney John Horn said in announcing the charge.
“This is a classic case where a public official’s short-term gain in stealing from taxpayers comes crashing down and ends with criminal charges,” Horn said.
Erves, 52, of Lithonia, worked for the agency from 1993 until earlier this year, when he was placed on administrative leave and resigned amid an investigation by the MARTA Police Department. At the time, MARTA said the investigation was “spurred by irregularities found by our internal audit division.”
MARTA issues a statement on Erves Thursday afternoon.
“As a public agency, we take our role as stewards of taxpayer dollars seriously and remain committed to transparency and accountability,” the statement said.
“This isolated incident has led MARTA to enhance our internal safeguards and departmental auditing process to prevent future situations that compromise the Authority’s use of public funds,” MARTA said. “MARTA has a plan in place to recover all misappropriated funds following the final resolution of Mr. Erves’ federal case.”
Erves oversaw the maintenance of all MARTA buses and rail cars and had the authority to approve payments up to $10,000 to vendors.
According to the Justice Department, Erves retained three vendors purportedly to perform maintenance like repairing brake-testing equipment and fixing other tools and equipment. From about June 2010 through December 2016, he allegedly had fake invoices prepared on behalf of the three vendors for more than 40 maintenance projects for which no work was performed.
The Justice Department did not name the vendors.
After being paid, the three vendors funneled most of the money into Erves’ personal bank accounts.
Erves has been charged in a criminal information with one count of Federal Program Theft. He is expected to plead guilty shortly after arraignment.
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