A former Metropolitan Transportation Authority procurement official currently under indictment for receiving kickbacks was hired by New Jersey Transit to assist with capital projects but wasn’t told that he faced criminal charges.
James Berlangero worked for New Jersey Transit for two months as a contractor before officials learned among the criminal charges filed against him and terminated him.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance charged Berlangero in 2020 with accepting more than $70,000 in kickbacks from a company handling a $10 million waste and asbestos removal contract.
“According to our records, a background check was conducted by AeroTek and did not advise us of anything related to any indictment,” said Nancy Snyder, a spokesperson for NJ Transit. “We’re holding them accountable to conduct a more comprehensive background check consistent with the level of review we apply to our own employee candidates, including those currently under contract.”
New Jersey Transit said that Berlangero was a consultant for AeroTek, a staffing and recruiting firm they use to fill some positions on a contract basis.
“He was assigned as a senior contract analyst,” Snyder said He was providing administrative support to procurement tasks associated with customer facing facility state of good repair projects.
Berlangero began working at NJ Transit on April 5, 2021 — sixteen months after his indictment — and was fired on May 26, immediately after transit officials learned of the criminal allegations against him.
According to Snyder, NJ Transit was paying over $4,000-per-week for Berlangero’s services – that works out to a cost of $211,744 annually for a middle management procurement worker — and spent $30,540 for the 7 ½ weeks that the 63-year-old Glen Cove, N.Y. resident working at the agency.
“We pay AeroTek for consulting services, who would then pay their employee,” Snyder explained. “The direct salary is between Aerotek and their employee.”
Snyder said he was hired to “provide temporary staff support for capital programs.” NJ Transit currently has nine AeroTek contract employees working in capital programs and two more in rail operations.
While Berlangero was an AeroTek employee, he was interviewed for the position by NJ Transit Capital Programs & Procurement officials.
Citing confidentiality, Snyder declined to comment on any internal audits to determine if other contractors placed by AeroTek have insufficient background checks.
She said NJ Transit is considering a request for AeroTek to refund fees paid for Berlangero.
“At this time, the invoices for his services are currently pending and undergoing further review,” Snyder said.
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, who has been a strong critic of NJ Transit in the past, said that circumstances of Berlangero’s hiring need to be transparent.
“Hopefully the New Jersey Transit board will ask for a full public disclosure about what mistakes went on here and why this was a contract job,” Weinberg said.
This was Berlangero’s second government job after he resigned from the MTA. His LinkedIn profile shows that he briefly worked as a contract administrator for the New York State Division of Homes and Community Renewal.
Madeline Mahon, a spokesperson for AeroTek, did not respond to a 2:09 PM email seeking comment, except to inquire what the topic was.
Vance alleges that Berlangero intervened to award contracts he was managing to WRS Environmental Services in exchange for cash, checks, a $10,000 auto racing sponsorship for his brother-in-law, cleaning services for his home, and a job at the firm for his daughter. He allegedly disclosed confidential information about the bid to two WRS executives were also charged.