Two longtime employees of D.C. Fire and EMS were arrested by the FBI on Thursday and face federal charges for allegedly accepting tens of thousands of dollars in kickbacks through a multiyear fraud scheme.
Charity Keys, 43, of Bowie, Maryland, and Louis “Joey” Mitchell III, 50, of Capitol Heights, Maryland, were each charged with bribery and conspiracy, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C. announced.
Keys is a supply management specialist who has worked for DC FEMS for 24 years, the department said. Mitchell is a supply technician with the department for 15 years.
They each were placed on administrative leave with pay starting Thursday, “pending an internal review of the charges,” DC FEMS said in a statement. It wasn't immediately clear if they had attorneys.
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News4 was first to break the news on Twitter.
Keys and Mitchell were each tasked with purchasing and receiving equipment and supplies. Federal prosecutors say they accepted bribes from a Maryland supplier over the course of several years, including one bribe of $20,000 each.
“In exchange, Mitchell and Keys allegedly directed purchase agreements and purchase orders to the company and confirmed delivery of and payment for goods that the company did not deliver,” a statement by prosecutors said.
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Multiple sources tell News4 the matter began in 2019 when an assistant fire chief noticed irregularities in purchases and notified the FBI.
DC FEMS was experiencing supply shortages of items that on paper had been ordered, paid for and received, court documents say.
News4 asked what kind of supplies were related to the case, but DC FEMS declined to say.
Fire and EMS Chief John A. Donnelly Sr. thanked prosecutors, the FBI and the D.C. Office of the Inspector General for their diligence.
“We are extremely disappointed about these allegations, as we have zero tolerance for criminal conduct,” he said in a statement. “The men and women of DC Fire and EMS work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to serve this community. I applaud our employees who uncovered the suspicious activity and immediately notified law enforcement. That swift action was deserving of the trust our residents place in our Department.”
In an unrelated matter, the D.C. inspector general also is investigating the D.C. fire department and numerous D.C. government agencies for possible discrepancies in overtime payments to employees during the pandemic.
Public records show individual D.C. government employees were paid tens of thousands of dollars in overtime during the pandemic, some of which were federal dollars.
Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office issued a statement calling that investigation a routine audit.
Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story.