Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — An associate of Falls plumbing contractor John Gross will spend the next year on probation for his guilty plea to conspiring to make a false statement in a federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) transaction.
The sentence was handed down to Walter Heinrich "Wally" Weiss, by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara during a hearing Monday afternoon.
Weiss, 61, an estimator and manager who worked for David Gross Contracting, a company controlled by John Gross, had faced a possible maximum term of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. However, under the terms of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, he was guaranteed a sentence of no more than six months in prison and, possibly, probation.
Because Weiss is not a U.S. citizen, his guilty plea and sentence may now subject him to a possible deportation hearing by the Department of Homeland Security.
In July of 2009, federal agents from the FBI and IRS raided the Niagara Street offices of David Gross Contracting as well as the City Halls offices of then Acting Commissioner of Inspections Guy Bax and Chief Plumbing Inspector George Amendola.
The agents said they were looking for evidence of criminal activity including tax evasion, extortion, bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud.
Gross Contracting had formerly been known as Gross Plumbing and Heating and although Gross’ son David was identified as the “president” of the company, a government informant claimed the business was actually controlled by John Gross; Steve Reddy, a master plumber and manager; Brian Viehdeffer, an estimator and manager and Weiss.
The government informant told FBI and IRS agents, and Weiss admitted as part of his plea, that Gross would keep blank letterheads from his competitors, on company computers, and then routinely use those letterheads to create fake work estimates. The fake estimates were then used in competitive bidding processes.