Former Department of Transportation employee charged with bribery and extortion

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FILE PHOTO: American flag waves outside the U.S. Department of Justice Building in Washington

A federal grand jury in Houston has returned an indictment charging a former Department of Transportation (DOT) employee with bribery and extortion.

Patrick Gorena, 54, Lyford, is scheduled for his initial court appearance today 2 p.m.

According to the indictment, returned Nov. 2, Gorena was a border investigator for DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. In exchange for minimizing purported safety violations he encountered while auditing a trucking company, which would have exposed the company to potential fines and the loss of their DOT license, Gorena allegedly demanded a $3,500 payment. The charges allege Gorena ultimately accepted a $2,000 bribe from an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a representative of the trucking company.

Gorena is charged with one count of bribery and one count of extortion under color of law.

If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 35 years in prison.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Jennifer Lowery for the Southern District of Texas and Special Agent in Charge Todd A. Damiani of the DOT Office of Inspector General’s (DOT-OIG) Southern Region made the announcement.

The DOT-OIG and McAllen FBI Public Corruption Squad are investigating the case.

Trial Attorney Lauren Castaldi of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Hanes for the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case.