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Paper Trail Led to MTA Manager

Contractor bills aroused suspicion of kickbacks; Sesay await sentence.

August 7, 1995

BY CHIP JACOBS
Daily News Staff Writer 

An MTA insurance manager who pleaded guilty to kickback charges first came under scrutiny when the Metro Rail contractor that was lavishing him with gifts and meals tried billing the agency for the expenses, officials say.

In a review of expenses submitted by Day & Zimmerman Inc., a company doing subway surveillance work, auditors found that insurance manager Abdoul Sesay violated rules by accepting gratuities from the firm, officials say.

Sesay was treated to at least 20 meals by the contractor’s consultant, records show, as well as air travel and hotel rooms for transit events in Philadelphia and Indianapolis, a trip to New York City and $140 in unspecified “entertainment expenses.”

MTA and law enforcement officials said they began examining Sesay when the audit of Day & Zimmerman’s expenses showed a series of questionable expenditures, including the meals, travel and entertainment expenses for Sesay.

“That’s when his problems started,” said Filiberto Martinez, the MTA’s acting chief auditor.

Martinez, who was questioned last year about his own relationship with Sesay, said he arranged a Mercedes-Benz car lease for Sesay at an Orange County dealership, putting his own name on the lease because he said Sesay had a credit problem.

“It was a mistake in judgment,” Martinez said in an interview, adding that Sesay made all lease and insurance payments on the car.

“The MTA inspector general’s office came and asked me about other financial links and I said there was none . . . I would never do anything to deface my mother and father’s name,” said the eight-year agency veteran.

He said he became friends and briefly socialized with Sesay until the audit turned up questionable activities.

Tuesday, Sesay pleaded guilty in federal court to taking $105,100 in kickbacks between 1992 and 1994 from a pair of insurance consultants whom he assisted to land Metro Red Line contracts.

He is awaiting sentencing.

As part of the ongoing inquiry into corruption and graft, inspectors have terminated a number of MTA contracts, including the $4.5 million Day & Zimmerman pact, according to company Vice President Karen Lautzenheiser.

Lautzenheiser said that neither her company nor its consultant, Richard Maloblocki, sought reimbursement for the expenses. She said the company’s contract was based on an hourly rate transit officials had agreed upon.

“If we did bill them on these things, we should be in court,” Lautzenheiser said.

In a brief interview Friday, Maloblocki also denied submitting the expenses.

But MTA officials disputed that, saying the bills were submitted for payment by Day & Zimmerman for their own expenses as well as those generated by Maloblocki and other consultants.

“It’s a clear violation of policy,” said agency spokeswoman Andrea Greene. “They are outrageous expenses at taxpayer expense and we will not tolerate them.”

Under their contract, Day & Zimmerman performed pre-construction surveys of property in the Hollywood and mid-Wilshire subway tunneling area, to use as a database in the event of claims of property damage from the project.

The audit detailed $165,000 in questioned overhead costs that Day & Zimmerman and its consultants tried to bill the agency between late 1991 and mid-1993, according to a copy obtained by the Daily News. The audit concluded that Sesay had accepted meals and a cross-country trip from the company and Maloblocki.

Though a precise amount of what Maloblocki spent on Sesay was not disclosed, he was a guest at about 20 meals – usually with one or two other people – that cost about $3,000, the audit shows.

Separately, Sesay’s air fare bill for a round-trip ticket from Los Angeles to Philadelphia and Indianapolis for a demonstration related to the Day & Zimmerman contract was $583, records show.

Maloblocki also submitted a bill for $208 for a one-night stay for Sesay at the Union Plaza Hotel in New York City, the MTA audit shows.

Maloblocki also billed the MTA for repayment for a $1,000 contribution to the unsuccessful mayoral campaign of Nick Patsaouras, a San Fernando Valley businessman and longtime transit board member, according to the MTA audit.

Patsaouras said he did not know the man.

MTA auditors rejected all of Maloblocki’s $121,375 in overhead expenses, most of it business meals, officials said.

On the Day & Zimmerman contract, Sesay violated agency policy by accepting the meals and gratuities, Greene said, though there is no evidence he was sanctioned by the agency.

MTA board Chairman Larry Zarian said the agency is determined to clear up all questions about the conduct of its employees and contractors.

“I want to get to the bottom of this,” said Zarian. “We owe it to the taxpayers and everyone else.”