Jose Rodriquez, 49, of Brick, N.J., pleaded guilty to mail fraud on Monday. Prosecutors said he obtained 114 chain saws for the railroad service, but sold them for profit.
By Jesus Jiménez for nytimes.com
For more than seven years, the authorities said, Jose Rodriguez of Brick, N.J., a senior engineer at Amtrak, obtained more than 100 chain saws and hundreds of chain saw parts from the railroad, claiming he needed them for various service projects.
But instead, according to prosecutors, Mr. Rodriguez, 49, sold the equipment either through an online auction service or directly to purchasers — and lined his pockets with the proceeds.
On Monday, Mr. Rodriguez pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud for using the Postal Service to mail the equipment — which the authorities said was worth more than $76,000 — to buyers across the country, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in New Jersey.
Mr. Rodriguez will face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 when he is sentenced on April 19, 2022.
Mr. Rodriguez took “advantage of his role as a senior engineer at Amtrak, to requisition and sign out” the chain saws and their parts “upon false pretenses” that the equipment would be used for Amtrak projects, according to the charging documents.
A lawyer for Mr. Rodriguez did not immediately respond on Monday night to phone and email messages seeking comment.
Starting in March 2012 and continuing through July 2020, prosecutors said, Mr. Rodriguez, who had worked for Amtrak since 2007, obtained 114 chain saws, 122 chain saw replacement bars and 222 replacement chains from Amtrak.
But instead of using the equipment for railroad projects, they said, Mr. Rodriguez sold it to buyers across the country.
On at least five occasions between 2018 and 2020, court records show, Mr. Rodriguez mailed equipment through the Postal Service to buyers in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Agents with the Amtrak Office of Inspector General recovered several of the chain saws sold by Mr. Rodriguez, and found that they had serial numbers matching Amtrak’s chain saws, according to court documents. At least one of the chain saws had been previously reported stolen by the railroad service, according to a complaint against Mr. Rodriguez filed in March.
On several occasions, agents learned, Mr. Rodriguez contacted a buyer offering to sell chain saws or parts before or on the same day that he picked up the equipment from Amtrak, according to court documents.
Mr. Rodriguez was arrested on March 8, 2021, and charged the next day with one count of theft from an agency receiving federal funds and one count of theft of government property. Those charges will not be pursued as part of an agreement through which he pleaded guilty to mail fraud, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office said on Monday.
Amtrak did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday night.