2 California state workers arrested in alleged bribery scheme

Published: Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 4A
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2013 - 8:45 am

Two state workers have been arrested for allegedly taking bribes – including money orders and vacation trips – in an office-supply fraud scheme that investigators say defrauded Caltrans and the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

A complaint by California Attorney General Kamala Harris claims that Michael Mathison, the 50-year-old owner of Veteran Toner Services, gave inflated office-supply quotes to the departments along with ginned-up bids from bogus "competitors" at even higher rates.

The San Pedro-based company's website describes the business as "a small service toner organization driven to find the lowest price on quality product for our customers." A person who answered the company's phone hung up without comment Tuesday afternoon.

The attorney general's Bureau of Investigation launched its probe after receiving an anonymous tip in April 2012. It alleges Fish and Wildlife employee Stephanie Clark of Fair Oaks, 42, took bribes totaling $23,800 over the course of five years, including a Disneyland vacation trip and more than 50 postal money orders deposited to her bank account, in return for ordering overpriced supplies from Mathison.

It's not yet clear how much the alleged scam cost the department. Investigators sampled 13 of more than 200 Fish and Wildlife office supply purchase orders to Mathison's firm and found about $50,000 in inflated charges to the department, about $3,850 per invoice. If the average holds true as the state continues its review of Fish and Wildlife orders, the fraudulent charges could surpass $750,000.

The complaint also alleges that Yuba City resident Danny Gray Compson, 62, submitted Caltrans invoices worth as much as $5,000 per week to be paid, but he never received the product from Mathison.

Clark was booked into Sacramento County jail and Compson went to Sutter County jail, with bail for each set at $75,000. Mathison was taken to the Los Angeles County jail. His bail was set at $250,000. The charges against the three include bribery, conspiracy and misappropriation of state funds.

Mathison and Clark could face well over 20 years in prison, said attorney general spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill. Compson faces five years in prison on current charges, but the complaint will likely be amended based on further evidence.

Both state employees could be fined up to $10,000 each for taking bribes. All three will be ordered to pay restitution, an amount that officials have yet to tally while the investigation continues, Gledhill said.

Call The Bee's Jon Ortiz, (916) 321-1043. Follow him on Twitter @thestateworker and read his blog, The State Worker.

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