A former maintenance supervisor admitted Tuesday morning that he accepted a bribe in exchange for helping a friend get a $1 million contract to paint dorm rooms on the University at Buffalo campus.
Dean A. Yerry, 63, pleaded guilty in State Supreme Court to one count of the indictment for taking money from Joseph LoVetro, a poker buddy.
The two concocted the plan to get the contract while Yerry was in charge of maintenance for dorms on UB's North Campus in Amherst, and the money changed hands between late 2012 and November 2014.
LoVetro went to Yerry's home in Sloan to help him craft his bid for the painting project and to make sure he would win it, prosecutors said. In exchange, Yerry was to receive $100,000 - 10 percent of the cost of the job.
However, LoVetro had no experience with jobs of that magnitude, according to prosecutors.
“He was a solo operator,” said Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn Jr. “A ‘come to my house and paint my house’ kind of painter.”
That inexperience likely contributed to the scheme being uncovered.
LoVetro didn’t file the monthly payroll records for his crew, which are required for all state contracts. That oversight prompted an investigation by the state Department of Labor into whether LoVetro was violating New York’s prevailing wage regulations.
During that probe, investigators also uncovered the bidding irregularities.
LoVetro eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges for the payroll offenses.
In the meantime, Yerry had retired and moved to Henderson, Nev. That’s where he was arrested last spring.
Justice Russell P. Buscaglia, in accepting Yerry’s plea Tuesday, said he was committed to sentencing Yerry to no more than a year in jail.
The judge also noted that no restitution would be ordered, since it was unclear to whom it would be paid. Instead, Yerry will be fined $40,000 -- double the amount prosecutors can prove he actually received.
After the court proceedings, Flynn said there is no evidence to indicate that Yerry routinely was taking bribes during his long tenure at UB. He also noted that LoVetro did perform the work he was hired to do in what appears to be a satisfactory manner.
“The most disturbing part of this to me is they got together to fix the bidding system to favor Mr. LoVetro,” Flynn said. “You have to assure that the taxpayers are getting the best price for the work. This goes to the heart of the process.
Yerry, who sold his Nevada home after his arrest, remains free on $100,000 bail. He returns to court for sentencing May 2.