Niagara Gazette

Courts

May 29, 2014

Gross associate takes plea deal

Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — A federal investigation into the activities of Falls plumbing contractor John Gross has led to the conviction of another associate of the three-time felon.

Walter “Wally” Weiss, an estimator and manager who worked for David Gross Contracting, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Buffalo on Feb. 28 to a one-count criminal information charging him with conspiracy to make false statements in a HUD (federal Department of Housing and Urban Development) transaction.

The charge carries a possible maximum term of one year in prison and a $100,00 fine. However, under the terms of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Weiss is expect to face a sentence of no more than six months in prison and a fine of between $250 to $5,000.

The plea agreement also indicates that Weiss is not a U.S. citizen. As a result, his guilty plea will 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.

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