Ex-Clairton manager pleads guilty to defrauding West Mifflin schools
During his tenure as Clairton city manager, Ralph Imbrogno used city staff members to create phony bid proposals that he submitted to the West Mifflin Area School District to get painting contracts awarded to his son.
Mr. Imbrogno, 65, pleaded guilty to one count of theft from a program receiving federal funds Thursday in U.S. District Court for working in collusion with former West Mifflin Superintendent Patrick Risha to defraud the district of $9,995.
Mr. Risha retired in November 2009 and died in October 2010.
The money was awarded as payment for an October 2009 painting contract Mr. Imbrogno's son, Anthony, received from the West Mifflin district after his father submitted two fake bid proposals in amounts higher than the one presented on behalf of Anthony Imbrogno.
The contract was to paint New Emerson Elementary.
While Mr. Imbrogno's plea was for one contract, Assistant U.S. Attorney Carolyn Bloch said evidence in the case showed there were 10 contracts obtained in the same way worth a total of $94,439 from May 30, 2008, to March 2, 2010.
The prosecutor said Mr. Imbrogno and Mr. Risha knew each other from political activities and that Mr. Risha agreed to forward painting work to Mr. Imbrogno's son. To do so, Mr. Risha explained to Mr. Imbrogno the district needed three bid proposals before it could award a contract. As a result, Mr. Imbrogno had his city staff prepare the fake bid proposals.
False bid proposals were submitted on behalf of Farkas Flooring for $10,995 and Yacavace & Planich Painting for $11,250. The third and lowest bid came from Mr. Imbrogno's son for $9,995.
Mr. Imbrogno had no comment after entering his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon. He faces sentencing before Judge Bissoon a 2 p.m. Dec. 6. The maximum penalty is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, though federal sentences are typically lower.
Mr. Imbrogno was furloughed from the Clairton city manager's job in June 2010 after 11 years in the position. He had previously served as a Clairton city councilman and controller. He is free on $10,000 unsecured bond.
Outside of the courtroom, Mr. Imbrogno apologized to West Mifflin school director Phil Shar, who attended the plea proceeding.
Mr. Shar said he hopes the district receives restitution from Mr. Imbrogno.
Mr. Shar, a retired West Mifflin teacher, was a frequent and vocal critic of Mr. Risha's handling of contracts and other school district business during his three-year tenure as superintendent.
"I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. I hope more dominoes fall and there is more restitution to the West Mifflin Area School District," Mr. Shar said.
Mr. Risha was previously embroiled in controversy over his use of district resources when an investigative agency hired by the school board concluded that he ordered district maintenance workers in 2008 and 2009 to perform work at his home and his son's home, both in Belle Vernon, and at the home of former West Mifflin school director Albert Graham.
Mr. Graham, through a consent agreement with the state Ethics Commission in November 2011, agreed to repay the district $1,234 for work done at his home by district workers that included the installation of a dishwasher and pool repairs. He also paid $1,000 to cover some of the costs of the investigation.
First Published August 10, 2012 12:00 am