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Truck safety bribe-taking nets prison for ex-official

A former truck safety supervisor for the U.S. Transportation Department was sentenced Thursday to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to felony bribe-taking.

James H. Wood, 45, of Delevan, was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny in Buffalo. Skretny also ruled that Wood must forfeit $41,300 to the federal government.

In January, the U.S. Attorney's Office charged Wood with taking tens of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for initiating "complaint audits" that could put a company out of business, or for giving favorable audits to other firms. He also was accused of taking bribes to provide "inside information" that let some companies keep potentially unsafe trucks on the road.

Wood pleaded guilty in June.

Wood accepted bribes from consultants working for Canadian trucking companies, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement. In exchange, he postponed safety inspections and ensured that those firms would get satisfactory ratings, according to the office.

In addition, the defendant provided consultants with internal agency information, including lists of other trucking companies scheduled to be audited, the statement said.

"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 U.S. Attorney's Office worked on the case with agents from the Buffalo office of the FBI and the Transportation Department's Office of Inspector General. Emails between Wood and a cooperating witness were part of the evidence that led to his arrest.

The charges caused Wood to lose his $80,000-a-year job as Buffalo field office supervisor for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

email: plakamp@buffnews.com

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