Federal authorities have charged a supervisor in the Baltimore Department of Transportation over an alleged extortion plot involving fines connected to obscure permits required to dig into city streets.
The supervisor, Daryl Christopher Wade, 50, is accused of accepting $5,000 from an FBI informant in exchange for wiping out $17,000 in fines the informant’s company had incurred.
“We in cahoots now,” Wade said after receiving the payment, according to court documents.
The criminal complaint filed against Wade describes misconduct by others, who are not identified, and a spokeswoman for the Maryland U.S. attorney’s office said the investigation is continuing.
City officials, meanwhile, said they would undertake an audit to uncover how widespread the problems might have been.
In addition to working at the Transportation Department, Wade took over as the head football coach at City College in 2015 and also coaches the school’s basketball team. He is the son of Bob Wade, the former University of Maryland and Dunbar High School basketball coach.
Daryl Wade has worked for the city since 1988 and made $69,000 in 2016, the most recent figures available. He was promoted in July, despite being under investigation by the FBI.
City Solicitor Andre Davis did not know Wednesday if Wade had been suspended and City College athletic director Rolynda Contee said she had not heard about the charges against him.
Wade made a brief appearance in court Wednesday afternoon. He didn’t enter a plea and a federal magistrate agreed to release him while the case proceeds.
Warren Brown, Wade’s attorney, said he still was reviewing the charges but that the allegations seemed small scale compared to most cases that land in federal court.
“I was surprised this ended up over here,” Brown said.
The FBI began the investigation in March 2016, according to the criminal complaint filed against Wade. The court papers say agents learned of allegations involving extortion by more than one Transportation Department employee. And a female employee in the city’s accounting office helped Wade wipe out the $17,000 in fines, according to the complaint. Davis also did not know her current employment status.
Wade’s position gave him authority over “street cut” permits, which construction crews need to dig into the city’s streets to access underground infrastructure. The permits last 120 days and if the work is not properly completed within that time, the crews face $50 a day in fines.
At the beginning of the investigation, agents met with the vice president of a Virginia company that held $55 million in contracts for sewer work in Baltimore. The executive described being approached by the owner of a Maryland construction and utilities company that he knew with a deal to dramatically reduce a supposed $1.3 million in fines the Virginia company faced.
The owner is only identified by the initials J.S. in court papers.
“I have something to tell you that you may be interested in,” J.S. wrote in a January 2016 text message to the executive. “Saving a lot of money for you.”
J.S. and the executive later had a meeting and went on a car ride, according to the complaint, during which J.S. made a phone call and relayed the message: “If you want to play you got to pay.”
The deal involved the executive paying $52,000 to a connection J.S. said he had in exchange for the fines being reduced to $260,000, investigators say.
The executive rejected the deal and was brought on as an FBI informant. Agents told him to reopen the discussion with J.S. and had him place recorded phone calls. The discussions didn’t lead anywhere, according to the complaint, but phone records showed that J.S. was in regular communication with Wade’s phone.
The FBI then recruited another informant to help with the case — a person who ran a construction business in Baltimore and who investigators acknowledge was facing potential criminal charges.
According to the complaint, the informant told investigators that Wade had pulled him aside after a hearing in which he tried to dispute the $17,000 in city fines and told him that they could help one another out.
The pair met in September 2016 to hash out a deal, investigators say. At the direction of FBI agents, the second informant struck a deal to pay Wade $5,000 to wipe out the fines, according to the complaint.
The informant and Wade met twice that month, with the informant each time handing over a bundle of cash. At the first meeting, the informant couldn’t believe Wade was going to be able to erase the fines, according to a recording of the conversation described in the complaint.
“Luckily, I control how that works,” Wade said.
The alleged deal also would cover any infractions in the future.
“Like I told you uh, you good for life with me,” Wade allegedly told the informant.
Baltimore Sun reporter Katherine Dunn contributed to this article.