Acting U.S. States Attorney Joel R. Levin announced Thursday the head of Amtrak transportation at Union Station in Chicago pleaded guilty to steering work to wife’s company. Fifty-year-old Benjamin Sheets of Downers Grove admitted to working for his wife’s company and steering work to her company during the last holiday season.
Sheets’ wife owned and operated a photography company in Downers Grove that was struggling financially. In an effort to help the company repay $25,000 in debt, Sheets steered work for “Polar Express”, a one-hour train ride through downtown Chicago, to his wife’s company in December 2016. The company operated a photo booth out of Union Station’s Great Hall and sold $3,670 photos for $10 each, according to court records.
Sheets was employed as the business manager for his wife’s company, but failed to disclose this information to Amtrak. To avoid detection, when he learned that Amtrak was investigating the contract, he made false statements and created bogus records in attempt to cover up his deception.
“The American people deserve fair and honest services from those entrusted to manage aspects of our nation’s passenger rail service,” Inspector General Howard said in a statement. “Amtrak personnel who make false statements in an effort to achieve personal gain will be held accountable. Our office will vigorously investigate and help bring to justice those who engage in such criminal activity as we work to protect Amtrak funds, American taxpayers, and the traveling public.”
Sheets had the promotions company to prepare a phony, backdated contract to make it look like it had hired his wife’s company prior to the launch of the 2016 Polar Express event. He then gave the bogus contract to Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General.
Sheets sentencing hearing is scheduled for February 27, 2018.