A former Tennessee Department of Transportation contractor will spend the next two years in prison for stealing nearly a million dollars meant for Tennessee roads.
The alleged theft went on for more than eight years between 2004 and 2012.
Michael Young, 55, served as a middle man between TDOT and property owners.
His job was to cut deals with those property owners to sell a portion of their land so TDOT could expand roads.
It turns out, however, he was taking federal money provided to pay for that land and using it for himself.
An audit in 2012 uncovered the theft when TDOT found that more than 50 parcels of land the department issued payments to purchase had never been bought.
According to prosecutors, Young would take the payments, deposit them in his business account and then transfer them to his personal accounts to spend on personal items.
All told, Young pleaded guilty to stealing $974,000.
“No TDOT projects were impacted by the scheme of Michael Young,” TDOT Spokeswoman Heather Jensen said. “TDOT covered the costs of land acquisitions and all projects moved forward as planned.”
Young pleaded guilty in federal court last week and a judge sentenced him to two years in federal prison.
He will be on three years of supervised release following his prison sentence.
So far the courts have recovered more than $700,000 from Young and he is required to pay another $221,000 in restitution while serving his prison sentence.
“It’s important to note, TDOT found this issue and immediately notified the Federal Highway Administration and Attorney General,” Jensen said.
TDOT has since stopped using consultants to do the right of way expansion land deals. Now departmental employees handle the transactions.
“Theft of the taxpayers’ money from the people of Middle Tennessee will always hold a high priority in this office,” U.S. Attorney for Middle Tennessee David Rivera said. “Every one of these cases is very important to us.”
Prosecutors said Young hid the missing money by using a type of “Ponzi Scheme” where he would use money from later TDOT deals to mask the money that was previously taken.
Young, who now lives in Florida, must report to prison by the end of August.