Baltimore transportation supervisor admits to taking bribes in federal extortion case

A Baltimore Department of Transportation supervisor admitted in court Friday to accepting $5,000 in bribes from contractors who sought to avoid fines for cutting into city streets.

Daryl Christopher Wade, 50, of Rosedale pleaded guilty to extortion in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. He faces as much as 20 years in prison and is scheduled for sentencing in August.

His attorney, Jason Downs, did not return a message seeking comment.

In his plea agreement, Wade admitted to accepting bribes from two contractors. He also admitted to scheming with the owner of a local construction company to extort a Virginia business.

“We in cahoots now,” Wade admitted to telling one contractor after pocketing a $3,000 bribe.

City officials have said they will undertake an audit to determine how widespread the extortion scheme might have been. Wade worked as a city employee from 1988 to 2017.

Most recently, he worked as a supervisor in the street cut office of the transportation department. The office administers permits to contractors seeking to cut into Baltimore’s streets, alleys and sidewalks. The permits are valid for three months, and the office fines contractors $50 a day for work that exceeds the permitted time.

In March 2016, an unidentified plumbing contractor attended a hearing to appeal a $17,000 fine for street cuts, according to Wade’s plea agreement. Wade stopped the hearing and asked to speak to the contractor outside, where he offered to help.

Six months later, Wade met the contractor and agreed to erase the fine for $5,000. They met again that month and the contractor tossed $3,000 into Wade’s car. Wade admitted to accepting the bribe, laughing and saying, “You good for life with me. … We in cahoots now.”

Also in his plea agreement, Wade admitted to scheming with Jerome Walter Stephens, the owner of a Baltimore construction and utilities company, to extort contractors. Stephens was arrested Tuesday and also has been charged with extortion. His attorney did not return a message.

In February 2016, a business owner began renovations on a restaurant in Baltimore and hired Stephens to overhaul the water lines. Stephens told the unidentified business owner that he would have to cut and repave the street, saying it would cost as much as $12,000, but he had a connection downtown who could save the money for a bribe, according to the plea agreement. The business owner paid $2,200 to Stephens, who gave the money to Wade, according to the plea agreement.

In another instance, Stephens met the vice president of a Virginia business with a $55 million contract to replace water lines across Baltimore and bring the city into compliance with the Clean Water Act. Stephens told the executive the company would face $1.3 million in street cut fines, but he could reduce the costs by 80 percent if the business paid a bribe of $52,000, federal prosecutors say.

“Stephens also stated something to the effect of: If you want to play, you got to pay,” prosecutors wrote in Wade’s plea agreement.

The vice president rejected the deal and was brought on as an FBI informant.

In addition to working at the Transportation Department, Wade took over as the head football coach at City College in 2015 and also coached the school’s basketball team. He is the son of Bob Wade, the former University of Maryland and Dunbar High School basketball coach.

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