Former SHA employee admits accepting bribes

Simms bought overpriced items from Stone Cold

April 01, 2005|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,SUN STAFF

A former purchaser for the State Highway Administration pleaded guilty yesterday to taking bribes from a company that handed out gift certificates as an enticement to get public employees to buy its cleaning supplies at inflated prices.

Linda Simms, 54, of Waldorf admitted before Charles County Circuit Judge Robert C. Nalley that she accepted nearly $800 in Wal-Mart and Toys R Us gift certificates in return for using her state credit card to buy items from Stone Cold Chemicals, a Florida company whose officials have been accused - and in some cases convicted - of corrupting public workers in several states.

She received a two-year suspended sentence, was fined $1,000 and placed on one year's probation.

Simms is the second Maryland employee to plead guilty in cases stemming from involvement with Stone Cold. Six have been charged and the investigation is continuing, said Kevin Enright, a spokesman for Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.

Simms, a 14-year state employee, lost her job in December after investigators found evidence of inappropriate purchases.

Prosecutors said she was called by a Stone Cold salesman in January 2001 and offered a choice of various gifts if she would buy products at "grossly inflated prices," according to court documents.

Her first order - 24 cans of Whoop Ice, a de-icer - cost the state nearly $25 a can, many times more than what would have been paid to an approved vendor. For this purchase, she was sent two pens.

Ten more times in 2001 and 2002, Simms - who worked at the La Plata state highway maintenance facility - purchased "thousands of dollars" of the high-priced supplies and was sent gift certificates, according to the court documents. Much of the information used to prosecute Simms comes from records seized from Stone Cold detailing her orders and subsequent bribes.

In the fall of 2002, the State Highway Administration issued a written reminder to employees that they could not accept gifts from vendors with whom they were doing business. At that point, Simms told Stone Cold to send the gifts to her personal post office box, the court papers said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.