Joseph Erves

Ex-MARTA exec pleads guilty in $500K fraud scam, had previous drug-related conviction

MARTA’s former senior director of operations pleaded guilty in federal court to his role in a misappropriation of funds scam, federal officials said Wednesday.

Joseph J. Erves, 52, of Lithonia, who worked for MARTA since 1993, funneled the majority of $500,000 in taxpayer money for MARTA projects into his personal bank accounts, U.S. District Attorney John Horn said in a statement.

The theft was “a blatant display of his desire for self-enrichment at the expense of the public interest,” Horn said.

MORE: MARTA investigates top administrator

An investigation began in March, when Erves was placed on administrative leave before resigning, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. 

In a statement, MARTA said the investigation was “spurred by irregularities found by our internal audit division.”

During an FBI investigation, MARTA discovered that Erves was sentenced in 1987 to 41 months in federal prison for a cocaine-related conviction. Erves and three co-defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy after DEA agents busted them with nearly 2 kilos of the drug. 

Erves was released from prison in 1992, according to court records.

WATCH: FBI joins investigation into former MARTA executive suspected of fraud

From approximately June 2010 to December 2016, Erves had fake invoices prepared on behalf of the three vendors he previously retained for more than 40 maintenance projects, according to Horn’s statement. 

Those vendors were paid despite never having performed any work, Horn said, and the majority of the money went into Erves’ personal accounts.

Erves spent that money on expenses such as a Porsche 911 and purchases at high-end department stores, Horn said.

Erves was charged Aug. 24 with one count of federal program theft. A date for sentencing has not been announced. 

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