A former Department of Transportation employee from South Texas was charged Monday by a federal grand jury in Houston with bribery and extortion, according to the Department of Justice.
Patrick Gorena, 54, a former investigator for the DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration office in Weslaco, Texas, is charged with agreeing to minimize purported safety violations he encountered while auditing a local trucking company in exchange for a $2,000 bribe.
On July 20, Gorena performed a safety inspection of a local trucking company and allegedly informed the company that it was facing $15,000 in fines “for the violations he identified and that the company’s operations may be suspended,” according to court documents.
Court documents did not identify the trucking company.
Gorena, a resident of Lyford, Texas, initially demanded a $3,500 payment from the trucking company in exchange for minimizing the violations, which would have exposed the company to potential fines and the loss of its ability to operate.
Lyford is about 40 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border crossing at the Brownsville Gateway Port of Entry.
Gorena ultimately accepted a $2,000 bribe from an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a representative of the trucking company, authorities allege.
Gorena, who appeared in court Monday, is charged with one count of bribery and one count of extortion under color of official right — a public official trading his or her official actions in exchange for the payment of money. If convicted on both counts, he faces a maximum penalty of 35 years in prison.
According to the FMCSA, motor carrier safety specialists are responsible for achieving the agency’s crash reduction goals. The primary role of a safety investigator is to conduct compliance investigations on transportation companies.
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