Two deny charges in alleged UMass kickback scheme

  • Arraignment of Victor Rodrigues in Hampshire Superior Court Wednesday, September 11, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Arraignment of John Paul Strycharz in Hampshire Superior Court Wednesday, September 11, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Arraignment of Victor Rodrigues in Hampshire Superior Court Wednesday, September 11, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Arraignment of John Paul Strycharz in Hampshire Superior Court Wednesday, September 11, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Arraignment of Victor Rodrigues in Hampshire Superior Court Wednesday, September 11, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/11/2019 10:29:38 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Two of the three men accused of fraud at the University of Massachusetts Amherst involving thousands of dollars of kickbacks and unlawful gifts, including vacations to Mexico, were arraigned Wednesday in Hampshire Superior Court.

Victor Rodrigues, 58, of Belchertown, pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit procurement fraud, one count of procurement fraud and two counts of giving illegal gratuities to a state employee.

John Strycharz, 57, of Biddeford, Maine, pleaded not guilty to one count of procurement fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit procurement fraud, four counts of using an official state position to secure unwarranted privileges, two counts of accepting illegal gratuities and one count of larceny over $250.

Rodrigues is the owner of Compass Restoration which, according to the attorney general’s office, was awarded millions of dollars in contracts that Strycharz, a former supervisor at the UMass physical plant, oversaw. The work included asbestos, mold, lead and PCB remediation.

Rodrigues is alleged to have made illegal gifts to Strycharz, including vacation trips to Mexico and motorboats.

Both men were released on personal recognizance, and their next court appearances are scheduled for Feb. 10.

Another man indicted in the case, Michael McGoldrick, 50, of Leyden, who supervised some outside contracts at UMass, is accused of taking money from Rodrigues’ company, as well as from another company doing work at the university. He was arraigned on Aug. 30 in Hampshire Superior Court and released on personal recognizance, according to the court clerk’s office.

One of Rodrigues’ attorneys, Michael Jennings, objected to the condition of release that his client surrender his passport and be forbidden to travel outside the country. He also objected to some of the people the prosecution was asking his client to have no contact with. He noted that some of those on the list are Rodrigues’ friends, his mother-in-law and his accountant.

Jennings also noted his client had an upcoming trip to Portugal planned, as well as an annual fishing trip to Mexico. He mentioned his client’s many ties to the United States.

“He was born here. He grew up in Ludlow,” Jennings said. “His family is here, his children are here, he owns property here, his business is here.”

Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Vasiliades said the annual trip to Mexico is part of the case against Rodrigues as it is alleged that he paid for UMass employees to travel to the country and gave them gifts there.

Judge John Agostini said that while Rodrigues was to surrender his passport to probation, requests to travel would be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Similarly, he left the no-contact list in place, but said he was interested in getting more information on the people the defense didn’t think should be on it.

Strycharz appeared in court without his attorney and was released on the same conditions as Rodrigues.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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