A Baltimore Department of Public Works supervisor and other city employees engaged in an extortion scheme in which they used city resources to install and maintain various services for private developers in exchange for cash, according to a federal indictment.
In a case filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on Wednesday, prosecutors charged Ronald Maurice Smith, a supervisor who typically worked a midnight-to-8 a.m. shift at the department, with extortion and illegal possession of a firearm.
According to the indictment, Smith worked with a licensed plumber, Philip Michael Loverde, who obtained plumbing and heating contracts and would direct the private companies to Smith to install new water services without proper permits while being paid in cash.
“SMITH would personally enrich himself and others by using Baltimore City employees, equipment, and materials to install new and upgraded water, sewer, and fire line services for private developers and property owners without obtaining the required permits, approvals, and inspections," the indictment reads.
Prosecutors wrote that Smith would do the work “without paying the Baltimore City fees for water, sewer and/or fire line service installation permits and [Department of Transportation] traffic control, and without installing water meters while charging lower prices to the private developers and property owners than City approved, bonded, licensed utilities contractors would charge.”
Smith does not have an attorney listed in online court records. He did not return a call for comment Thursday.
A spokesman for the Department of Public Works declined to comment.
Loverde also faces an extortion charge for his alleged role. He was not immediately available for comment Thursday.
Prosecutors wrote that Smith and other employees installed new water and sewer services at four properties on Quarry Avenue in the Hampden neighborhood, nine properties on North Gay Street in the Broadway East neighborhood and a nearby property on East Preston Street in the same neighborhood.
Smith would either ask for payments in cash or through Loverde’s company, All Services Heating and Plumbing, which would submit a false invoice for the work city employees did, according to the indictment.
In a news release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office wrote that Smith engaged in the conspiracy from January 2014 through February 2016.
“Specifically, the indictment alleges that Smith used his authority as a DPW supervisor to cause DPW workers, using DPW equipment, to make a street cut to access the public water main, and install a pipe to connect the water main to a location for a water meter vault, and from that location to a private property, all without obtaining the necessary permits,” the office wrote.
Smith is alleged to have received at least $64,000 as a result of the scheme, the office wrote.
As for the weapons charge, the office wrote that Smith allegedly possessed a .380-caliber handgun Feb. 5, 2016, despite a previous felony conviction.
Smith and Loverde face up to 20 years in prison on the extortion charges, the office wrote, while Smith faces an additional 10 years in prison on the weapons offense.
The court has not yet scheduled an initial appearance for either Loverde or Smith.
This story has been updated to reflect the correct potential sentences for Smith and Loverde.