Police say the driver of the semi-truck car hauler and his dog were “shaken” but alive.
A New Jersey Amtrak employee admitted on Monday to stealing $76,000 worth of chainsaws and chainsaw parts from Amtrak and selling them for personal profit, acting U.S. attorney Rachael A. Honig announced in a press release.
Jose Rodriguez, 49, of Brick, New Jersey, also pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud, a felony that carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, the press release stated.
Amtrak police in the New York and mid-Atlantic divisions led the investigation that culminated in the guilty plea.
They found that over the course of eight years, Rodriguez obtained 114 chainsaws, 122 chainsaw replacement bars and 222 replacement chains from Amtrak under the false pretense that this equipment would be used for Amtrak projects.
Instead, authorities said Rodriguez sold the equipment either on an online auction service or directly to purchasers in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia via the U.S. Postal Service.
Rodriguez previously was charged in March 2021 with one count of theft from an agency receiving federal funds and one count of theft of government property.
This is not the first time transportation employees have defrauded Amtrak.
In August of 2021, a manager and attendant at a Delta gas station was charged with making fraudulent fuel expenses for Amtrak vehicles. The fraud was initially discovered when a technician discovered dozens of fuel credit card charges that exceeded the associated Amtrak vehicle’s fuel tank capacity, along with premium fuel transactions.
The scam went on for two years before the gas attendant was caught and prosecuted.
Amtrak services limited: Amtrak riders can expect reduced services in January due to federal vaccine mandate
Amtrak has been struggling with the vaccination of its employees as well.
Amtrak is expecting to cut back service in 2022, with roughly 5% of its workforce running out of time to comply with the federal contractor vaccine mandate.
Amtrak employees have until Jan. 4 to comply with the federal mandate requiring full vaccination among government contract workers.
About 94% of Amtrak’s workforce was fully vaccinated at the beginning of last week and 96% have received at least one dose, according to president Stephen Gardner. But with a significant number still unvaccinated, Gardner said the railway company may have to cut the railway’s frequency of service in January to avoid staffing-related cancellations.
Contributing: Bailey Schulz
Michelle Shen is a Money & Tech Digital Reporter for USA TODAY. You can reach her @michelle_shen10 on Twitter.