John Sandella, 54, of Orange, pleaded guilty Thursday before U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill in Bridgeport to receiving unlawful compensation while serving as an employee of the West Haven Housing Authority.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Sandella was employed as the Clerk of the Works for the West Haven Housing Authority (“WHHA”), a federally-funded program through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (“HUD”). HUD’s rules and regulations prohibited the WHHA from entering into any contract in which an officer or employee of the WHHA who influenced decisions with respect to the underlying project had an interest.
From March 2009 through January 2012, Sandella used his position as Clerk of the Works to influence the WHHA to enter into a plumbing contract and award plumbing jobs to a plumbing company that was owned and operated by a longtime friend and associate of Sandella. Specifically, Sandella assisted the plumbing company’s owner in preparing applications and bids for these jobs and promoted the company to the WHHA as a qualified plumbing service. In addition, SANDELLA reviewed the work performed by the company at WHHA properties, submitted the company’s invoices to the WHHA for payment, and delivered WHHA payment checks to the company’s owner or deposited those checks himself into the company’s checking account.
Unbeknownst to HUD and the WHHA, the plumbing company’s owner owed private debts to Sandella and lacked the means to repay Sandella other than with the money paid to the company by the WHHA.
Following the deposit of the WHHA checks into the plumbing company’s checking account, Sandella and the company’s owner worked together to direct certain payments out of that same checking account for the benefit of Sandella. Payments included checks written to CJM Construction, which was a plumbing contracting business owned and operated by Sandella; checks written to an insurance company for insurance policies for Sandella and his family, and checks written to the Regional Water Authority for accounts in the name of Sandella and his family.
Sandella failed to disclose the existence of his financial interest in the contract between the WHHA and the plumbing company.
Pursuant to the contract in which Sandella had an undisclosed interest, the WHHA paid $137,004 to the plumbing company. In turn, the plumbing company paid $26,687.26 to and for the benefit of Sandella.
Sandella pleaded guilty to one count of receipt of compensation with the unlawful intent to defeat the purposes of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a charge that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of one year. Judge Underhill scheduled sentencing for December 8, 2016.
Sandella has agreed to pay restitution to the WHHA in the amount of $137,004.