The Coastal Star

Delray Beach: Three former city employees facing fraud charges

By Jane Smith

    Three former Delray Beach employees were arrested recently, charged with using a company that billed the city for goods that were never delivered, according to the State’s Attorney Office.
    The three were longtime employees with the city before they resigned last year when their departments were under investigation. In mid-February, they were charged with an organized scheme to defraud Delray Beach of more than $50,000 and grand theft of more than $100,000.
    The three men arrested are: Orlando Serrano, 46, who worked for the city for nearly 19 years and resigned his post as a traffic maintenance supervisor in March 2015; Cesar J. Irizarry, 51, who was a treatment plant operator for about 25 years before he resigned in August; and Howard Bellinger, 51, who worked for the city for about 24 years before he resigned from his post as streets and traffic superintendent in August.
    Serrano and Irizarry were released on $30,000 bond while Bellinger was released on $20,000 bond.
    Bellinger was to be arraigned March 1 and Irizarry on April 7. Serrano’s arraignment date of March 1 was canceled. A new date was not set.
    Prosecutors say the fraud occurred in this manner:
    American Traffic Products & Services Inc. provided street signs, street sign posts and diamond asphalt and concrete saw blades to Delray Beach. But the city didn’t know that Serrano and Irizarry owned and operated the company, a violation of the city’s code of ethics.
    Bellinger’s role required him to approve invoices for the streets and traffic divisions.
    The city made 59 purchases from American Traffic Products for $230,540.59 since 2007, prosecutors found. But because of record retention limits, investigators could review only purchase orders going back to Oct. 1, 2009. The amount of purchases reviewed was for $158,139.21. Prosecutors found a total loss of $133,444.87 to Delray Beach.
    The company’s address was the same as Irizarry’s home address in suburban Boca Raton, state records show. According to records subpoenaed from JP Morgan Chase Bank related to American Traffic Products, Irizarry is the company’s director and Serrano is an authorized signer and the contact person on the account.
    Bellinger is not listed in the corporate records or bank accounts of American Traffic Products.
    Between Oct. 6, 2009, and Oct. 28, 2014, the city paid $132,846.71 for sign equipment from American Traffic Products, but received only signs and posts worth $24,694.64. That resulted in a $108,152.07 loss for Delray Beach, prosecutors found.
    During that time period, Irizarry and Serrano withdrew a total of $112,920.39 from American Traffic Products’ bank account, with $51,480.39 withdrawn by Irizarry and $61,440 withdrawn by Serrano. Some of that money, $27,560, was deposited into Bellinger’s personal bank account, prosecutors found.
    Bellinger separately ordered $7,582.80 from that company on Oct. 8, 2009, for thermoplastic striping materials and reflective glass beads. The city paid for the items, which it never received, prosecutors found.
    Ten days later and through Oct. 24, 2011, Bellinger ordered the same thermoplastic striping materials, used for street markings, from Star Seal of Florida for $8,540.55. The city paid that invoice, resulting in a double payment.
    Between Oct. 7, 2010, and Feb. 13, 2014, Bellinger ordered 200 gallons of liquid road tack from American Traffic Products. The city paid $9,520, but the road tack was not delivered. During a similar time frame, Bellinger then ordered the liquid road tack from Star Seal of Florida. The city paid that bill totaling $9,535.20.
    Bellinger also ordered diamond saw blades from American Traffic Products for $7,920 between Oct. 10, 2012, and March 21, 2014. The city paid the bill, but it never received the saw blades. But between June 28, 2012, and Sept. 25, 2014, Bellinger ordered diamond saw blades from National Diamond Enterprises for $8.690.40. The city paid the bill for the saw blades that it received.
    None of the former employees could be reached for comment.

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