PORTLAND, Ore. — A former Oregon Department of Energy official was sentenced Tuesday to five years in federal prison for charges related to bribes he received for arranging the sale of state energy tax credits.
Joe Colello also was ordered to pay $81,000 in restitution, The Oregonian/OregonLive reports .
Authorities said Colello accepted nearly $300,000 in kickbacks from Seattle-based energy consultant Martin Shain. In return, Colello helped Shain arrange the sale of tax credits the agency issued to developers and owners of renewable energy and conservation projects. Shain netted $1.3 million in commissions, investigators said.
“Government employees are called to be stewards of taxpayers’ dollars and interests. Instead, this defendant chose to betray his obligation and defy public trust,” said Billy J. Williams, U.S. attorney for the District of Oregon. “Plain and simple, corruption erodes confidence in government.”
Colello pleaded guilty last month to money laundering and conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service.
Shain has pleaded not guilty to state charges of forgery, bribery, tax evasion, racketeering and theft. His trial is scheduled for September.
The alleged kickback scheme became known after The Oregonian/OregonLive published the results of an investigation showing the state had improperly awarded $12 million in tax credits to solar projects based on forged documents. Shain was the state’s consultant on those projects.
State rules allowed the original recipients of the energy tax credits to sell them to a third party at a discount, and it was Colello’s job to match sellers with buyers and process the transactions for a small fee.
Sellers also could use outside brokers to find buyers and complete the deals. In 2012, Colello started crediting Shain for matching buyers and sellers who had actually come directly to the state to complete their deals.
Colello is scheduled for sentencing on state charges later this month. Under plea agreements with state and federal prosecutors, he is not expected to serve extra time in prison. He would, however, pay additional restitution to the state and clients who paid commissions.
Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com