State worker pleads guilty in repair shop scam

February 25, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

A 54-year-old state employee has pleaded guilty in Anne Arundel Circuit Court to misconduct in office for accepting discount prices on vehicles from a repair shop where he had steered state business.

Russell R. Rippel of the 1100 block of Hotel Ave., Pasadena, was sentenced Wednesday by Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. to three years' supervised probation and was ordered to complete 1,040 hours of community service as part of a plea agreement negotiated with the state prosecutor.

"I'm thoroughly ashamed to be here. I'm thoroughly ashamed of this whole thing," Mr. Rippel told Judge Thieme.

Between March 7, 1990, and March 3, 1992, Mr. Rippel, who supervised repairs to state vehicles damaged in accidents, arranged to have several damaged vehicles towed to Pride Auto, in the 1200 block of Greenmount Ave. in Baltimore, said Michael McDonough, assistant state prosecutor.

In exchange, Pride gave Mr. Rippel discounts on four scrapped state vehicles he arranged to have towed to the shop and repaired for private sale.

Mr. Rippel also rigged bids on damaged vehicles on at least one occasion to benefit Pride, Mr. McDonough said.

The repair shop, which since has gone out of business, gave Mr. Rippel discounts on two Chevrolet trucks, a Chevrolet Citation and a Ford Taurus station wagon, Mr. McDonough said. He said Mr. Rippel sold two of the vehicles and kept the others for personal use.

Mr. McDonough said he could not estimate the value of the discounts but that Pride sold Mr. Rippel a Ford Taurus, which had been used by Maryland Public Broadcasting, for $3,500 when the fair market value of the car was $6,000.

No one from the repair shop has been charged, but the matter has been referred to "another state agency," Mr. McDonough said. He declined to specify the agency.

Mr. Rippel was transferred to the insurance commissioner's office May 26, 1993, Mr. McDonough said.

Charles LaMason, a spokesman for the Insurance Commission, said Mr. Rippel is part of a team of supervised examiners who monitor private insurance companies to make sure they adequately deliver services.

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