SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) – A former administrator within the Oregon Department of Energy pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering, bribe receiving, tax evasion, aggravated theft and official misconduct.
According to Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum's office, Joseph John Colello assisted in transactions when organizations earned Business Energy Tax Credits but couldn't use them against their own tax liability. Rosenblum's office said he was involved in the sale of "hundreds of millions of dollars of BETC credits" and received $291,017.04 worth of kickbacks.
"We are pleased that Mr. Collelo has taken responsibility for his fraudulent conduct against the state, which involved a scheme to make money off BETC credits," said Attorney General Rosenblum in a press release. "This program was intended to benefit Oregonians, but instead a state employee took advantage of a well-meaning program for his own benefit."
Records show the allegations being made against Colello span between January and September 2012. According to the Department of Energy spokesperson, he was employed at the agency from May 2007 until August 2015.
In a statement provided to KOIN 6 News Michael Kaplan, the director for the Oregon Department of Energy said:
In 2015, we asked the Department of Justice to conduct an investigation because we needed to know, and Oregonians deserved to know, if anyone at our agency was involved in any wrongdoing. We've been working hard to bring full transparency to legacy problems with the energy tax credit programs, and we'll continue to cooperate in any way we can with the investigation."
Colello's LinkedIn page states his responsibilities for the state as "Develop and recommend language for administrative rules and statutes, lead contact with Oregon Attorney General specific to Tax Credit Pass-Through administration and program implementation. Develop relationships with Fortune 500 and other potential pass-through partner entities with Oregon state tax liabilities, driving successful energy projects, while assisting pass-through partners in achieving meaningful reductions in their Oregon tax liabilities."
Colello is represented by Oregon criminal defense attorney Paul M. Ferder, according to court records. Attempts to reach Ferder by e-mail and phone have been unsuccessful.