Crime: Mariner East pipeline employees, contractors illegally paid state constables in ‘buy-a-badge scheme,’ DA says. - - PressFrom - US
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Crime Mariner East pipeline employees, contractors illegally paid state constables in ‘buy-a-badge scheme,’ DA says.

00:05  04 december  2019
00:05  04 december  2019 Source:   philly.com

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The Mariner East system comprises the Mariner East 1, Mariner East 2 and Mariner East 2X pipelines . Together, these pipelines continue to create thousands of well- paying construction jobs and support hundreds of permanent, family-sustaining jobs.

Sunoco buys two Chester County homes along Mariner East pipeline . Johnson is a constable in Coatesville and Robel is a constable in Northumberland County. Robel, who was wearing his constable badge and a belt with a gun, allegedly told the detective to move a legally parked vehicle

Security personnel for the controversial Mariner East pipeline engaged in an illegal “buy-a-badge scheme,” recruiting state constables to act as private guards at local construction sites and taking steps to obscure payments to them from public scrutiny, Chester County District Attorney Thomas P. Hogan said Tuesday.

a construction site: Heavy construction vehicles move earth near the Valley Square Shopping Center to make way for the Mariner East Pipeline that will run through Chester County in residential and commercial areas .   The Mariner East pipeline is continuing to be constructed in Delaware and Chester Counties by Sunoco Energy Transfer Partners, much to the consternation of many of the residents of the area© MICHAEL BRYANT/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS Heavy construction vehicles move earth near the Valley Square Shopping Center to make way for the Mariner East Pipeline that will run through Chester County in residential and commercial areas . The Mariner East pipeline is continuing to be constructed in Delaware and Chester Counties by Sunoco Energy Transfer Partners, much to the consternation of many of the residents of the area

Hogan’s office brought criminal charges against Frank Recknagel, 59, the head of security for pipeline operator Energy Transfer Partners, and four private security contractors hired by the firm: Nikolas McKinnon, 39; Michael Boffo, 59; James Murphy, 61; and Richard Lester, 71.

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DA: Constables illegally worked security for pipeline . Authorities say in January, just after a sinkhole opened up in a backyard - two state constables misused their authority while working as private security here on Lisa Drive in West Whiteland Twp.

The Mariner East pipelines are a series of Natural Gas Liquids pipelines under construction in the US state of Pennsylvania. The pipelines are intended to facilitate the transfer of Natural Gas Liquids from the Utica Shale and Marcellus Shale Formations to ports on the eastern seaboard where the ethane

All five were charged with bribery, conspiracy and related offenses. They’re accused of paying 19 state constables more than $230,000 over two years to improperly patrol the pipeline route while wearing their uniforms and badges and carrying their firearms to act “as a deterrent,” according to court documents.

“This is a pretty simply case,” Hogan said in a statement. “State Constables sold their badges and official authority. Energy Transfer bought those badges and authority, then used them as a weapon to intimidate citizens.”

Vicki A. Granado, a spokesperson for Energy Transfer Partners, said the company found the charges filed against Recknagel “troubling" and without merit. She added that local law enforcement did not object to the company’s plan to hire constables when it was discussed with them.

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The Mariner East natural gas pipeline project is being built by Energy Transfer and its subsidiary Sunoco Pipeline L.P. Hogan’s office began “We have a code of conduct for all of contractors and third party vendors that clearly states what are acceptable behaviors and business practices, and we

Paying workers illegally in cash can lead to serious problems in addition to tax problems. Many businesses pay contract workers (casual labor, summer workers, While payments to independent contractors have fewer issues than those of employees , two issues are worth noting

“The District Attorney’s complaint only constitutes allegations — it is not proof of wrongdoing,” Granado said. “Energy Transfer will fully support [Recknagel] as he seeks the dismissal of the allegation, which again, we believe has no merit, now that he is entitled to due process and a fair hearing.”

The company is building three adjacent pipelines to transport natural gas liquids such as propane across the state from the Marcellus Shale region through Chester County to a terminal in Marcus Hook.

Earlier this year, Hogan made headlines by launching a criminal investigation into the pipeline, which has garnered near-constant protest from residents living along its intended route. A similar investigation is underway by State Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

More recently, federal investigators launched a probe into how Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration issued construction permits for the $5.1 billion Mariner East project.

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Investigators say Chester County residents reported that armed security guards identified themselves as state constables on their property. Zegart made contact with the man, who was wearing a hard hat, construction vest and displaying a badge and polo shirt appearing to have the state seal on it.

The Chester County District Attorney's Office says two Pennsylvania constables illegally provided security for Sunoco's Mariner East Pipeline .

The charges filed Tuesday were built on an earlier investigation Hogan’s office conducted this summer. In August, two state constables, Kareem Johnson, 47, and Michael Robel, 58, were charged with official oppression and Pennsylvania Ethics Act violations for improperly working for Raven Knights, the private security firm owned by Lester and operated by Murphy.

» READ MORE: 2 state constables broke law while working for Mariner East pipeline, Chester DA says

Chester County detectives said Johnson and Robel, in uniform and carrying weapons, were paid to patrol pipeline construction sites in the county. Robel once approached a county detective, identifying himself as working for “Sunoco," and ordering the detective to move his legally parked vehicle. Their criminal cases are pending in Chester County court.

McKinnon and Boffo, are affiliated with TigerSwan LLC, which is now in litigation over accusations it operated without a license while working as a contractor for Energy Transfer to help secure the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, a site roiled by protests in 2016.

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2 Constables Accused Of Illegally Working As Private Security Guards On Mariner East Pipeline , Prosecutors SayThe Chester County District Attorney's Office announced the arrests of Pennsylvania constables Kareem Johnson and Michael Robel on Thursday.

How to deal with non- payment by an employer or client and make sure you get paid for your services as an employee or independent contractor . Some possible remedies exist for employees and contractors to pursue when they are not paid for their work.

In the affidavits of probable cause for Tuesday’s arrests, detectives said Recknagel, the head of security for Energy Transfer, arranged to “off-shore” the hiring of the constables through TigerSwan and Raven Knights.

Recknagel hid the payments to the constables through a “shell game," investigators said: He sent their payments to JAB Inspections, another Energy Transfer subcontractor that had “no operational control over the security team." JAB then forwarded the payment to Raven Knights.

Murphy and Lester, both former Pennsylvania State Troopers, then cut checks for the constables without official tax documentation, “in a manner that evaded reporting requirements,” according to the affidavits.

The constables made the transactions harder to track by failing to report the money on their annual state ethics statements, as required by law.

“Every step of the payments was hidden and cloaked,” according to the affidavit.

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