DOH chief arrested in federal probe

BUCKHANNON – A Division of Highways official in Buckhannon was arrested Friday after being indicted in federal court on charges that he allegedly made false statements to federal agents.

Edward Matthew Tuttle, 38, of Buckhannon, the highway administrator for the West Virginia Division of Highways’ Equipment Division office in Buckhannon, was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury sitting in Clarksburg on one count of making a false statement to a federal agent, according to a press release issued Friday by the office of William J. Ihlenfeld, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia.

Tuttle’s indictment marks the second time in three weeks that an employee of the DOH Equipment Division has been indicted for allegedly lying to federal investigators. Barry D. Thompson, 48, of Mt. Clare, was indicted Feb. 19 by a federal grand jury sitting in Elkins on one count of making a false statement to a federal agent. Thompson is a supervisor with the DOH.

Both Tuttle and Thompson have been accused of making “materially false” statements to investigators with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who questioned them as part of an ongoing probe into the Equipment Division of the DOH, according to press releases from Ihlenfeld’s office.

Tuttle’s indictment, which was unsealed Friday, accuses him of making “false, fictitious and fraudulent statements and representations” about his knowledge of and involvement in state employees transporting a Volvo tandem axle dump truck to the Port of Baltimore in Maryland “on state time and at state expense” after the dump truck had been purchased by a third party at a state DOH auction. Tuttle – who served as a supervisor in the Equipment Division before being promoted to highway administrator – allegedly made the statements to investigators while being questioned Jan. 16.

Tuttle’s statements are false, the indictment alleges, because sometime between April 25-26, 2011, Tuttle and another DOH employee allegedly drove the dump truck purchased at the state auction to the Port of Baltimore and delivered it to a third person “on behalf of the auction buyer” while they were working on state time and at the state’s expense. Neither the buyer or the second DOH employee are identified in the indictment.

Tuttle is free on a personal recognizance bond, but has been ordered to appear before U.S. Magistrate John S. Kaull for arraignment at 11 a.m. Tuesday in federal court in Elkins, Chris Zumpetta-Parr, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Friday.

According to previous reports, on Aug. 20, 2013, West Virginia State Police and FBI agents seized a number of records and documents from the DOH Equipment Division in Buckhannon while executing a federal search warrant obtained through the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of West Virginia.

No arrests were made as a result of the search warrant, and a DOT spokesperson told The Inter-Mountain that the agency was unsure of what federal agents were after.

Following Thompson’s arrest in February, Carrie Bly, a communications specialist for the West Virginia Department of Transportation, declined to comment on the supervisor’s arrest.

“There’s nothing we can say,” she said. “With it being a legal matter, we can’t comment on it at all, so that’s all I’ve got to say about that.”

Indictments are formal accusations, and Tuttle is considered innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law; however, if he is convicted, Tuttle could face up to five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.