OMAHA, Neb. -- Six arrests have been made, and one more is anticipated, in a conspiracy case involving fake weights in and out of the Douglas County landfill.
According to investigators, five county employees manipulated the scales to under-report how much money two landfill customers had to pay, with the employees pocketing the difference.
The seven are accused in a nearly year-long theft that finds one county scale-worker on the take over and over again from one of the businesses.
The Sheriff's office says that worker then gave "tips" to the other scale workers.
One more arrest warrant is waiting to be served. Among those suspected of the crimes are:
- Landfill supervisor Mark Huntley: Another landfill employee told DCSO that Huntley made “discount” deals with local roofers, obtaining $25 gift cards and hams for scale house employees in exchange, court documents state. Huntley was booked on Class 2A felony charges of criminal conspiracy in the amount of $5,000 or more in theft of services.
- Clerk and weighmaster Mark Helmberger: Court documents show Helmberger, who had apparently worked for the county for more than 13 years, told investigators that the discounts scheme had been going on since he started working at the scale house in 2007. Helmberger was booked on the same Class 2A felony charges of criminal conspiracy.
- Employee Lara Anahi: Court documents state that a landfill employee told investigators Anahi was seen retrieving a large roll of cash from the back room at the end of her shift — and that Huntley had taken a large roll of cash into the back room on the same day. Investigators later discovered that Anahi had paid $7,750 in cash to purchase a 2105 Ford Fusion in Jun 2019. Anahi was booked on the same Class 2A felony charges of criminal conspiracy.
- Employee Suzanne Swanson: Swanson was booked on the same Class 2A felony charges of criminal conspiracy.
- Debris hauler Gary Cooper: In interviews with DCSO in February, Cooper said he had been receiving a discount for one or two years from all staff at the scale house, but hadn’t asked for it. In total, investigators estimated he pocketed nearly $9,000 and shorted the landfill more than $38,000, court documents state. Cooper was booked on the Class 2A felony charges of criminal conspiracy.
- Debris hauler Hector Flores: An employee told investigators that Flores was getting discounts regularly, despite saying he had only visited the landfill once, according to court documents. WM officials, however, said they had noted at least 32 times during their investigation timeframe that Flores had been at the dump to unload. During those trips, Sudyka had manually adjusted weight and fees for him 30 times, and Anahi and Helmberger had each adjusted them once. Helmberger also told investigators that he paid Flores to replace the roof at his home, paying Flores $2,100 less than his insurance had given him for the repairs. Flores was booked on a Class 4 felony charge.
- Employee James Sudyka: Another landfill employee said Sudyka and “other now-retired employees” had been taking money from the scale house since 1995 using fake tickets or deleting cash transactions from the computer system and pocketing the funds, divvying up the day’s ill-gotten funds from the register amongst themselves. Helmberger said that Sudyka would take a bag of scale house cash in the back room at the end of each day and sort out cash “tips” of $17-$100 that would later get picked up by the other staffers. Additionally, one business doing regular dumping told investigators that Sudyka starting asking its haulers for $50 cash payments as they were coming in, then handing them receipts for less than that as they exited. A review of receipts provided by the business showed the adjustments resulted in about $3,000 cash payments to Sudyka at a cost of nearly $11,000 to the landfill, court documents show. As of Thursday night, DCSO had an outstanding Class 2A felony warrant for Sudyka for theft of $1,500-$5,000.