By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
The first two guilty pleas in the continuing probe into out-of-control P-Card spending by Port Everglades employees were entered Wednesday in federal court in Miami – with more pleas and arrests expected to follow.
Facing up to five years in prison and a hefty fine, David Dean Moore and Bryan Zascavage each pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit fraud concerning programs receiving federal funds. Sentencing was set for Oct. 10.
Davie plumber Moore, Pompano Beach plumbing company owner Zascavage and three others – William Woessner, John McGahee and Rajindra Lallharry – were charged July 17 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with misusing the Broward County-issued credit cards to buy goods and services that were never delivered to the port. Instead, prosecutors said, they used the P-Cards to engage in various schemes to illegally profit.
The federal government has jurisdiction because the port receives thousands of dollars every year under a federal program involving grants, subsidies, loans, guarantees and insurance.
Moore was fired by the port one year ago after it was determined that he had abused his P-Card to purchase faucets and backflow preventer kits and more than 100 feet of brass pipe that were never received by the port, according to a county report. Records show he was later allowed to resign after Local 2200 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Moore’s union, intervened. No explanation was provided, but the change meant that Moore remained eligible to collect pension and unemployment benefits.
Next set to enter a plea is McGahee, who was fired from his job as a construction worker in the fendering department on July 26. McGahee, 43, of Davie, has agreed to plead guilty to the same charge later this month before Fort Lauderdale U.S. District Court Judge Rodney Smith. Smith is South Florida’s newest federal judge, nominated by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate on June 12.
County seeks no stolen funds
Court documents say more than $400,000 in port funds were misappropriated by the five defendants since 2008. But that total is expected to grow significantly as the investigation continues to unfold. In the first story about the investigation on Jan. 16, Florida Bulldog reported that a county source familiar with the probe said authorities had at that time identified a decade’s worth of suspicious purchases by just one port worker totaling $1.1 million.
The county has yet to take any steps to recover the missing money.
Woessner, 68, of Margate, retired in 2016. While working at the port, however, he also ran his own plumbing company, All County Plumbing. Zascavage, meanwhile, operated Z&Z Inc., a company providing goods and services to the port that was the hub around which a number of the schemes revolved.
Prosecutors allege that Woessner and Zascavage schemed together to rip off the port. Woessner gave Zascavage a list of certain plumbing goods he needed for his business. Woessner, too, gave Zascavage a list of goods that were generally more expensive than he knew the port would need.
“Woessner would pay for the goods using his Port Everglades P-Card, but the goods were not sent to Port Everglades. Instead, Woessner utilized the goods at his plumbing company,” the government said in its press release announcing the charges.
Zascavage provided a false invoice to the port and got paid for the more expensive materials that were never delivered. He bought Woessner the less expensive items he needed “and kept the difference,” the charging document says. Woessner submitted false reports to his supervisor regarding his P-Card use to cover things up.
Between 2008 and 2016 the scheme netted Woessner and Zascavage more than $150,000, court papers say.
Moore used his P-Card to pay Zascavage for plumbing supplies that were never delivered to the port, court papers say. The two split about $36,000 in illegal proceeds.
Zascavage schemed with McGahee to use McGahee’s P-Card to pay Z&Z for the maintenance of hydraulic drills that was not provided to the port. “Defendant McGahee would either provide the necessary maintenance himself or no maintenance work would be done,” the charging document says.
McGahee had Zascavage submit false invoices that McGahee backed up in his own report to his supervisor. The two split about $17,000 obtained in the fraud, the court papers say.
Lallharry’s alleged P-Card scheme was similar, and apparently more lucrative.
Lallharry was a port storekeeper, responsible for specialized clerical and manual work in the procurement and control of materials, goods and services. According to prosecutors, however, from 2012 until last year he used his P-Card to charge approximately $229,000 to buy vacuums, refrigerators, portable air conditioners and other items from five companies owned by members of his immediate family. The equipment was never delivered to the port, and Lallharry altered invoices to remove the name of a family member to avoid discovery.
Lallharry, who was fired in May, had a novel use for much of his ill-gotten gains. He used the funds to make monthly payments due the Chapter 13 trustee overseeing Lallharry’s bankruptcy. Lallharry and his wife filed for bankruptcy protection in 2013, estimating their debts to be as much as $500,000.