A former New Jersey transportation executive has pleaded guilty after he admitted pressuring an airline into creating special money-losing flights to Columbia because he had a vacation home in nearby Aiken.
Former Ports Authority Chairman David Samson pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to a bribery charge. He faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced in October, although prosecutors are recommending no more than two years.
Meanwhile, the Newark Star-Ledger newspaper reported United Airlines reached a non-prosecution agreement with the Justice Department to pay $2.25 million in exchange for no charges against the company.
The paper reported that Samson had threatened to block a new hangar United Airlines wanted at the Newark Liberty International Airport unless airline executives agreed to restart the recently-discontinued flights to Columbia. Samson admitted in court testimony that he had met with airline officials in September 2011, after removing the hanger from the Ports Authority board’s meeting agenda. He also confessed he had “let it be known” the flight made it convenient for him to travel to a second home he and his wife owned less than 45 minutes from the Columbia Metropolitan Airport.
United reinstated the flights to Columbia not long after the Ports Authority board voted to approve the hangar in December 2011. The airline discontinued the flights again shortly after Samson resigned in 2014.
The US Attorney’s Office in New Jersey on Thursday also charged a former transportation commissioner Jamie Fox with helping Samson strong-arm the airline. Fox is charged with conspiracy to commit bribery.