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Tampa Bay-Lakeland
Business Observer Monday, Jun. 12, 2017 3 years ago

FDOT employee, husband busted in $370K grant scheme

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Couple charged with conspiracy to commit federal program theft and related offenses.

TAMPA — A Lakeland couple, Tracy Dean Tronco, 51, and Alejo Tronco-Diaz, 50, has been charged in a grant theft scam where they allegedly stole more than $370,000 in Florida Department of Transportation grant funds.

Each defendant was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit federal program theft, one count of mail fraud and two counts of federal program theft.

Tronco worked as a transit coordinator and passenger operations specialist at FDOT's District 7 office in Tampa from May 2010 through August 2015, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's office in Tampa. As part of her work, she had a role in awarding federal grant funds the U.S. Department of Transportation provided to FDOT.

Tronco-Diaz, who married Tronco in 2012, was an FDOT grant applicant who operated an alleged church, Ministerio A Gran Voz De Trompeta Campus (Ministerio) in Hillsborough and Polk Counties, the release states. Ministerio purported to provide transportation services for underserved populations such as elderly, disabled, and unemployed individuals.

Authorities contend Tronco used her position at FDOT to award more than $370,000 in federal funds to Ministerio and another religious ministry that claimed to be partnering with Ministerio to provide transportation services. The grant money was supposed to be used to purchase and renovate a commercial property in Hillsborough County; provide job and transportation-related services; purchase three new vehicles; and to reimburse the operation's vehicle maintenance costs.

The funds and vehicles were not used for the purposes stated in the grant paperwork, say law enforcement officials, but, instead, were kept by Tronco, her husband and other co-conspirators. Tronco also failed to disclose to FDOT her personal relationship with Tronco-Diaz, which constituted a conflict of interest that would have prevented her from handling the awards in question.

Tronco resigned from FDOT in lieu of termination April 27, 2016, the release states.

If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison for the conspiracy count; up to 20 years' imprisonment on the mail fraud count; and up to 10 years in federal prison for each of the program theft counts.

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