It’s common after damaging weather events for officials to issue warnings to homeowners about untrustworthy contractors.
New court filings suggest those warnings may be as applicable for major corporations.
Roger Bradford, a former manager at Pella-based Vermeer Corp., and Viorel Draghia, owner of a Virginia-based contracting company, have been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud for alleged bid-fixing during the construction of Vermeer’s new Eco Center in Pella, replacing a facility destroyed by a July 2018 tornado.
Draghia has pleaded guilty to the charges, filed in May. Bradford, who is also charged with obstruction, is scheduled to stand trial in August.
Previously:Vermeer is coming back ‘stronger, better than ever’ after tornado smashed plant
Bradford’s attorney, Guy Cook, said in an email his client has pleaded not guilty.
“Bradford has a long career as an exemplary and successful construction director,” Cook said. “Bradford denies the allegations.”
Attorney F. Montgomery Brown, representing Draghia, said in an email that the account laid out in court filings “accurately depicts his conduct.”
“Mr. Draghia has ongoing health issues and these issues and other mitigating factors will be presented during sentencing in this case,” Brown said.
Vermeer’s Eco Center, which reopened in early 2020, serves as both a recycling center and hazardous chemical warehouse for the agricultural and construction equipment manufacturer. The company says the facility annually collects and recycles or uses as energy sources 60,000 gallons of solvent, 40 million pounds of scrap metal, and other oil, wood and electronic waste.
According to court filings, Bradford, hired in January 2019 as Vermeer’s director of construction, was in charge of reconstruction of the center. Vermeer fired Bradford in October 2019. In between, according to prosecutors, Bradford sent Draghia confidential project information and recommended that the project’s general contractor hire Draghia’s company, Draghia Painting & Contracting Co., for masonry work.
Draghia received several projects on Bradford’s recommendation, despite other bids from competing companies for “substantially less money,” and in exchange, Draghia paid kickbacks to Bradford, whom he had known for several years prior and who had lived near him in northern Virginia, the court filings say.
From 2018:‘Truly a miracle’ that no one died in tornado that hit Vermeer
They do not show how much Draghia allegedly paid Bradford, nor how much prosecutors believe Vermeer overpaid due to their collusion.
Prosecutors say Bradford was charged with attempted obstruction after he urged Draghia to lie to law enforcement officials and not to “flip” against him.
In a statement, Vermeer spokeswoman Liz Sporrer said the company discovered the alleged fraud in 2019, investigated internally and reported its findings to the FBI.
“While we will not comment further on a pending matter, we thank law enforcement for their work and appreciate the work of our internal team and partners in identifying and bringing these issues forward,” she said.
William Morris covers courts for the Des Moines Register. He can be contacted at email@example.com, 715-573-8166 or on Twitter at @DMRMorris.