Former OR Department of Energy employee pleads guilty to taking $291K in bribes

Joseph Colello in court Tuesday. (KPTV)

A former Oregon Department of Energy employee who received nearly $300,000 in kickbacks pleaded guilty to charges including racketeering, tax evasion and bribe receiving, according to the Department of Justice.

Joseph John Colello was arraigned in court Tuesday and immediately pleaded guilty to multiple charges.

According to court documents, Colello was facing 52 counts of bribe receiving for taking money between 2012 and 2015 with an "agreement and understanding that defendant's judgment, action, decision and exercise of discretion as a public servant would thereby be influenced."

The Department of Justice reports Colello was responsible for overseeing the transfer of Business Energy Tax Credits for the state.

When an organization earned the credits but could not use them against their own Oregon tax liability, they could chose to sell the credits, find buyers, contract with a broker or ask ODOE to help find a buyer.

Colello's role was to assist in all of these transactions and he was directly involved in the sale of hundreds of millions of dollars of Business Energy Tax Credits, according to the DOJ.

For his involvement, investigators said Colello received $291,017.04 worth of kickbacks.

He also pleaded guilty to charges of official misconduct and first-degree aggravated theft.

"We are pleased that Mr. Collelo has taken responsibility for his fraudulent conduct against the state, which involved a scheme to make money off BETC credits," said Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. "This program was intended to benefit Oregonians, but instead a state employee took advantage of a well-meaning program for his own benefit."

The Department of Energy released a statement saying Colello's conviction "does not reflect our agency's values or culture."

"Throughout this process, our agency has worked closely with investigators. Current ODOE staff have spent countless hours going through project files, emails, and other documents, trying to piece together a history of various projects and why decisions by former staff members were made. We'll continue to cooperate in any way we can," according to a statement from the department.

Colello is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 3.

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