A former state corrections employee was sentenced to prison for bribery after prosecutors charged that he misused state COVID-19 funds that were intended to help purchase personal protective equipment.
The former employee, James W. DiPino, and his brother, Paul J. DiPino, Jr., entered Alford pleas to misdemeanor bribery charges in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County last week, according to court records.
In an Alford plea, defendants do not admit guilt to the crime but acknowledge that the state has enough evidence to secure a conviction.
As part of the plea, the DiPinos were each sentenced to one year and one day in prison and relinquished assets totaling $2,625,538.57 that were purchased with the PPE funding.
“At the height of the pandemic, when many Marylanders struggled to stay afloat, the DiPino brothers selfishly redirected funds away from the State for their own financial gain,” Attorney General Anthony Brown (D) said in a written statement announcing the convictions. “My office and our law enforcement partners will continue to hold accountable those who attempt to defraud state government of its resources.”
According to the attorney general’s office, as a senior program manager for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, James DiPino was in a position to select vendors for personal protective equipment at the start of the then-novel COVID-19 pandemic.
Beginning in April 2020, he initiated 11 purchases from a company associated with Paul DiPino called AB Medical, LLC.
In those purchases, James DiPino favored AB Medical over other vendors, even when the other venders offered the same equipment for lower prices, prosecutors said.
“AB Medical, LLC received its final payment from the State of Maryland on August 25, 2020. Between September 1, 2020, and September 3, 2020, AB Medical, LLC transferred $3 million to James DiPino through two shell companies established by James DiPino and Paul DiPino,” according to the attorney general’s office.
The brothers used “that $3 million kickback” to fund a personal investment account and to purchase a 2020 Four Winns FSA H350 boat for $278,540, among other things, an attorney general’s press release said.
James DiPino, Paul DiPino and AB Medical are ordered to pay back millions of dollars in state funds that were intended to go toward PPE.
In addition to the assets already seized by the state, James is also ordered to pay an additional $1,239,242.07 in restitution, “less the proceeds from the sale of the boat,” which was legally transferred to the state.
In August, AB Medical was ordered to pay $3 million in restitution to the state. The company was also fined $10,000, the statutory maximum.
Both brothers also received a nearly nine-year suspended prison sentence, which could be imposed if they violate three years of supervised probation after their release.
Paul DiPino’s attorney, James A. Johnston, said in a statement to The Baltimore Sun that he “decided to accept an Alford plea to avoid dragging his family through a long and costly trial. He had a long and successful career in the logistics field and did much through that work to help hospital employees and others on the frontlines of COVID.”