OIG: Two former city employees charged in theft of equipment

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Photo by Wally Gobetz, via Flickr

Two former city employees were criminally charged after a joint investigation allegedly found them trying to sell stolen city-owned heavy equipment, according to a new report from the Office of the Inspector General.

The investigation by the OIG and local law enforcement’s Regional Auto Theft Task Force targeted the individuals after the city watchdog received a complaint about stolen machinery.

On March 23, 2019, a Bobcat loader and grappler bucket, valued at more than $33,000, were stolen from a Department of General Services lot in the 6400 block of Pulaski Highway.

Surveillance video showed a small vehicle entering the lot shortly before the theft and following the Bobcat as it was being driven off the lot. The registration showed the small vehicle belonged to a DOT employee.

Using GPS tracking, a detective with the Regional Auto Theft Task Force tracked the Bobcat to a storage unit in the 2700 block of Beryl Avenue, according to the report. The renter said he purchased the loader for $6,000 from a former city employee, who previously worked for DOT and the Department of General Services. The worker was fired in 2018.

While investigators did recover the Bobcat, the grappler bucket, worth $3,600, was gone.

The renter said he bought the Bobcat with the understanding it had previously been auctioned by the city and gave the detective the cellphone number for the ex-city employee.

Using cellphone records and the surveillance footage from the theft, investigators identified the driver hauling the Bobcat from the city lot as the former municipal employee. According to the OIG report, the same two people are believed to be involved with the theft last June of a Toro lawnmower, valued at nearly $1,300.

The detective filed criminal charges against both people with the Baltimore City State’s Attorney.

After the OIG released its findings to the Department of Transportation, the employee was fired in December 2019. The person appealed that decision to the Office of the Labor Commissioner, but the agency upheld the termination at a hearing in February, the report said.

In response to the report, Department of General Services director Chichi Nyagah-Nash said the agency is rearranging the lot to better secure heavy machinery and using security cameras more frequently in daily operations.

Brandon Weigel

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