By Eric Eyre
The Charleston Gazette-Mail
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Just hours after he was indicted on federal racketeering charges Tuesday, a former West Virginia Division of Highways official apparently committed suicide near Bridgeport in Harrison County, authorities said.
Bob Andrew, who headed the DOH equipment division in Buckhannon for 16 years and last served as special executive assistant to Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox, was found dead at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday in a vehicle registered to his name at a car wash just outside Bridgeport’s city limits.
“We’re waiting for official confirmation from the medical examiner’s office, but all indications point to that it was Mr. Andrew,” said Harrison County Sheriff Albert Marano. “We do not suspect any foul play at this time.”
Andrew apparently died of a gunshot wound to his head, according to two law enforcement sources. A note and shotgun were found in the vehicle.
Andrew was indicted late Tuesday after noon on charges that he created a “culture of corruption” within DOH and using state employees to work on Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s campaign in 2011, according to the indictment.
The 29-count indictment alleges Andrew used state workers and equipment to take part in political activities on state time, rigged bids for favored vendors and directed workers to violate laws that govern the selling off of surplus vehicles and equipment. Andrew, 77, also is charged with tampering with a witness and falsifying DOH documents.
In 2011, Andrew directed DOH workers to solicit and collect thousands of dollars in contributions for Tomblin’s gubernatorial campaign on state time, the indictment alleges. Andrew also ordered DOH workers to hang Tomblin campaign banners on semi-truck trailers throughout West Virginia, federal prosecutors allege. Andrew had subordinates submit falsified documents so they’d be reimbursed by the state for their time hanging banners for Tomblin, the indictment states.
The indictment also names Mo Trim Inc., a Cambridge, Ohio-based company that did business with the DOH equipment division under Andrew’s watch. Mo Trim allegedly worked with Andrew to rig bids and secure a lucrative state contract for mower parts.
Andrew also allegedly directed employees to misuse the contract and purchase assembled components that were installed on tractors, according to the indictment. Andrew also had state employees create documents to try to cover up the scheme, federal prosecutors allege.
In August 2013, U.S. Attorney Bill Ihlenfeld’s office simultaneously served search warrants at the DOH’s equipment office in Buckhannon and at Mo Trim’s office in Ohio.
Andrew took part in schemes to defraud the state from 2009 through August of last year, according to the indictment.
Last year, two former DOH supervisors who worked for years under Andrew at the equipment division pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal investigators during the investigation.
Edward Tuttle, who resigned in April 2014, admitted that he lied about his role in delivering a surplus DOH truck to a buyer at the Port of Baltimore in Maryland. The sold truck was to be shipped to Africa.
The second DOH supervisor, Barry D. Thompson, was charged with lying to investigators about DOH employees “repairing and replacing parts for a dump truck on state time and state expense,” according to a federal indictment. Shortly before his scheduled jury trial, Thompson pleaded guilty to providing false information to a West Virginia state trooper. Thompson agreed to cooperate with the federal investigation.
Thompson admitted that he directed a state employee to repair a dump truck after it had been sold at a state auction. Thompson also said a state employee was ordered to travel in a state-owned vehicle to buy a new muffler for the dump truck. The muffler didn’t fit the truck, and Thompson exchanged it for another. The muffler was purchased at a discounted rate provided to DOH.
State and federal authorities have been investigating DOH’s equipment division for more than two years over allegations of bid rigging, misuse of taxpayer funds and political activities by DOH employees on state time.
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Reach Eric Eyre at [email protected], 304-348-4869 or follow @ericeyre on Twitter.