FBI raid Pennsylvania Turnpike HQ, take hard drives and other evidence
A number of Pennsylvania Turnpike officers have lost computer hard drives to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Last Thursday morning Oct 22, FBI officers showed up unexpectedly at the Turnpike offices in Harrisburg and apparently presented their authority (subpoena) to impound, examine and confiscate equipment and records as part of a criminal investigation. The agents returned and spent most of Friday at the Turnpike also. Nothing has been announced by either the FBI or the Turnpike.
INSERTION: Wednesday morning a public affairs officer for the FBI denies FBI agents were at the Turnpike offices Thursday or Friday. Also a Turnpike spokesman calls our story "a total fabricaton," and adds "It never happened." He suggested we "take the story down." We are checking further - editor. 10:35 FOLLOW-UP: The follow-up is the next report posted http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/4419
We're informed the FBI "raid" comprised three federal agents targeting three offices, one of which was the office of executive director Joe Brimmeier, while another was the Turnpike's legal department.
One of the hard drives taken belonged to Brimmeier's executive assistant April Moore. She was absent last week when the FBI came - off sick - and a temporary secretary for the executive director who arrived to help Brimmeier couldn't get their computer to work.
The IT department was summoned, and reported to Brimmeier's temporary that "There's no hard drive."
The Feds had taken it.
Brimmeier himself is not a computer man. He uses the telephone, sees people face to face, and dictates messages to assistants who compose letters, messages or memos that go out under his name. So seizing the hard drive of his executive assistant is going right to the top.
"NO SHREDDING" signs over shredders
Staff at the Turnpike Commission have been informed by email subsequent to the FBI visit not to shred any documents or delete files from their hard drives (if they still have them.)
And there are signs over shredders which say "No shredding."
Links with convict Vincent Fumo?
Our informants don't know what the FBI is investigating.
However there were many links between the Turnpike and the corruption case that put state senator Vincent Fumo in jail. Turnpike chairman Mitch Rubin was removed from his position by the Governor recently after he was named the target of a corruption investigation, and a number of those found at trial to have received no-work "contracts" with the state at the behest of the now-imprisoned Vincent Fumo also were at one time or another on the Turnpike payroll.
Just last week Michael Palermo, a Fumo associate pleaded guilty to billing thousands of hours as a "consultant" without any real work. see http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/4410
One informant told us: "It is unclear what the exact scope of the investigation is but they are likely looking into political contributions from vendors, contractors and consultants, and patronage of both the personal and pin-stripe variety."
State grand jury too
As well as this federal investigation there has been a state grand jury investigation of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission ongoing since about June this year. We don't have any details of what's involved there, except that it seems to be an active criminal inquiry.
BACKGROUND: The Turnpike Commission's Harrisburg head office officially named the Eisenhower Building was extensively rebuilt and expanded 1999 to 2001 at a cost of $25m. It is a large free standing building in lawns on the northern bank of the Susquehanna River with lovely views of the river and of the Turnpike bridge over it.
About 400 people work there.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike is the oldest state tollroad in the US and it is in the top rung of state toll authorities in the US grossing around $720m/year, based on close to half a million vehicle journeys a day. With 2300 employees on staff it is one of the most powerful institutions in the state having successfully faced down and defeated the state governor, Ed Rendell who wanted to concession out the Turnpike operations to private enterprise. The state was offered $12.5b for a longterm lease of the Turnpike.
It has 853km (530 miles) of roadway and provides the major links between the 12m population state's four major metro areas - Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and the Scranton-Wilkes Barre area in the northeast. The Turnpike is mostly interstate highway: I-70, I-76, I-276 and I-476.
Joseph G Brimmeier, now 61 years old was appointed executive director of the Turnpike Commission Feb 4, 2003 by Gov Ed Rendell. A Democrat Party member, his career prior to that was in Allegheny County government in the Pittsburgh area.