This week, Kevin Gleaton, 53, was sentenced to 18 months in prison after conspiring to commit wire fraud to defraud the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corporation (“NWCDC”) and misusing Social Security numbers in connection with a personal bankruptcy proceeding.
Gleaton’s sentencing comes after a long investigation into the use of taxpayer funds intended for conserving and managing the City of Newark’s water assets. Since the 1970s, the City has delegated the responsibility of operating the City’s water assets to the NWCDC, a non-profit entity. As a result, the NWCDC received taxpayer funds from the City to manage the City’s watershed, reservoirs, and water-treatment plant. What seemed like a good idea, paved way for a fraudulent scheme that took taxpayer money away from the conservation of water and instead placed it into the pockets of the NWCDC officials. Between May 2011 and September 2012, it is alleged that Gleaton conspired with Donald Bernard, Sr., the manager of special projects for the NWCDC, and Linda Watkins Brashear, the executive director of the NWCDC, to defraud the organization of more than $110,000. The plot unfolded by issuing fraudulent invoices to two of Gleaton’s companies (Synergy Group, a printing services company, and Mindshare Media, a digital marketing company) for work that was never actually performed. In total, approximately $110,000 was paid to Gleaton’s companies. After receiving payment, Gleaton then gave $97,000 to Bernard, who shared a portion with Brashear.
Gleaton, Bernard, and Brashear all pleaded guilty to the charges alleged. As a result of partaking in the fraudulent scheme, Gleaton was sentenced to 18 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and $111,600 in restitution. He also pleaded guilty to the use of false Social Security numbers in relation to personal bankruptcy proceedings in 2012 and 2013. As for the other players, both Bernard and Brashear pleaded guilty to using interstate facilities to promote and facilitate bribery by accepting $956,948 in kickbacks from several contractors over several years. They also pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns. Bernard was sentenced to 8 years in prison and Brashear’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for September 11, 2017.
The NWCDC was dissolved in 2013 and the City of regained control over water distribution ever since. When Gleaton pleaded guilty to the charges in 2016, he became the sixth person to plead guilty in connection to NWDCD’s mismanagement of Newark’s water assets. This case is an example of how a lack in oversight in federal agencies can lead to the misuse of taxpayer dollar for personal gains of agency officials.