HARRISBURG -- Agents this week quietly made what is believed to be the first arrest in a long investigation of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.
Former turnpike employee Ronald J. Kozlowski, 68, of Plymouth Meeting, Montgomery County was charged Monday with seven criminal counts.
He is accused of directing employees to provide construction services on his property and to use a Turnpike Commission purchasing card -- similar to a credit card -- to buy him thousands of dollars worth of plumbing supplies, electrical equipment, lighting supplies, thermostats, decking, lumber and other building materials.
Investigators also say Mr. Kozlowski lied under oath to a grand jury and defrauded the commission of $1,687 in salary that he was paid for hours he also billed to the office of Conshohocken District Judge Francis J. Bernhardt for his work as a constable.
Responding to a tip, the commission's Office of Inspector General launched an internal investigation that exposed the alleged thefts, agency spokesman Carl DeFebo said Thursday. After the investigation, the commission fired Mr. Kozlowski and alerted the attorney general of its findings, Mr. DeFebo said.
"We actually had passed this case along" to the attorney general, said Mr. DeFebo. "We started this investigation internally."
Mr. Kozlowski had been hired in 1998 and worked most recently at a $72,600-per-year job as tradesman maintenance superintendent for District 5, which encompasses Interstate 476, the turnpike's northeast extension between Montgomery and Lackawanna counties.
It is not clear whether Mr. Kozlowski remains employed as a constable. Neither he nor Judge Bernhardt could be reached Thursday.
Since Mr. Kozlowski's termination, the turnpike commission has implemented a computerized tracking system to more closely monitor the use of purchasing cards, which are intended to be used for emergencies when it isn't practical to use more time-consuming procurement procedures, Mr. DeFebo said.
"Now all the approvals and monitoring happen electronically and the transactions are monitored daily," Mr. DeFebo said.
Mr. Kozlowski was charged with four counts of theft, one count of fraud, one count of misapplication of entrusted property, one count of perjury and one count of false swearing. Those charges, according to an affidavit of probable cause, were recommended by a statewide grand jury investigating allegations of public corruption within the Turnpike Commission.
Mr. Kozlowski was released on $50,000 unsecured bond. He is due back in court July 15 for a preliminary hearing before Harrisburg District Judge Michael J. Smith.
The attorney general's office has been investigating political corruption, contract irregularities and nepotism at the turnpike commission for at least a year and a half.
The state investigation follows the 2008 federal prosecution of former Philadelphia state Sen. Vincent J. Fumo and former legislative aide Ruth Arnao for numerous crimes, some related to turnpike business.
Bureau Chief Tracie Mauriello: 1-717-787-2141 or email@example.com .