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HOS violations land Connecticut man in prison

The manager of Wisla Express, was sentenced to 14 months of imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release for falsifying and destroying driver records.

The Trucker News Services

3/5/2014

HARTFORD, Conn. — In Connecticut, they don’t take violating the Hours of Service rule lightly.

Last month, Dariusz Szteborowski, manager of the New Britain, Conn.-based Wisla Express, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson in Hartford to 14 months of imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release for falsifying and destroying driver records that are required to be maintained under federal motor carrier safety regulations for inspection.

Szteborowski was also ordered to pay a $20,000 fine.

Previoulsy, on January 17, 2014, Wisla Express as a company was sentenced to a five-year term of probation and ordered to pay a $75,000 fine.

“Wisla Express drivers, at Mr. Szteborowski’s direction, routinely drove many more hours than allowed by federal transportation safety regulations,” U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly said.  “Mr. Szteborowski then attempted to cover up these violations by submitting numerous false driver logs to federal regulators.  Driver safety regulations for commercial motor vehicle carriers exist to protect not only passengers, but everyone who travels our nation’s roads.  We believe that this investigation and prosecution may have prevented a highway tragedy caused by fatigued drivers, and we hope that this sentence will serve as fair warning to other commercial operators.”

According to court documents and statements made in court, Wisla Express is a commercial motor carrier that employs drivers to operate vans and minibuses to transport individuals to and from airports, and tour buses carrying passengers to locations outside of Connecticut.

Szteborowski, a manager at Wisla Express, was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company, including scheduling driving assignments and maintaining the company’s driving records, the court said.

Between September 2008 and September 2010, the court said Szteborowski scheduled and assigned drivers to trips knowing that the drivers would be exceeding the regulated limits of on-duty driving time, and also instructed drivers and others to falsify driving logs by recording that the drivers were off-duty during times when they were, in fact, driving.

In order to pay drivers for time actually spent working for Wisla Express, Szteborowski instructed drivers to submit separate pay sheets and notes that accurately detailed their hours.

The court said Szteborowski then destroyed the pay sheets and other documentation that accurately recorded the drivers’ hours.

In response to a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration investigation of Wisla Express that was initiated in August 2010, Szteborowski produced the falsified driver logs and withheld other records that would conflict with the logs.

On Feb. 22, 2013 Szteborowski, 50, a resident of Rocky Hill, Conn.,, pleaded guilty to one count of submitting a false statement to the U.S. Department of Transportation.  On Feb. 25, 2013, Wisla Express pleaded guilty to the same charge.

During his three-year term of supervised release, Szteborowski and his wife cannot be involved, directly or indirectly, in Wisla Express or any other business under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

U.S. Attorney Daly commended the investigative efforts of the agents of the New England Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  The Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles Commercial Safety Division provided valuable assistance to the investigation.

According to published reports, Szteborowski's attorney, Jonathan J. Einhorn, had presented a series of character witnesses at hearings earlier this month who all assured Thompson that Szteborowski is an honorable family man.

They described him as an honest and hard-working immigrant who built a series of successful businesses in New Britain's Little Poland neighborhood, and suggested that maybe he'd inadvertently made errors in the Wisla paperwork because he was overburdened with other business responsibilities. Einhorn asked that his client get only probation and a fine.

After the sentence was imposed, Einhorn said Szteborowski's conduct amounted to an error that could have been punished with a fine.

"This was essentially a mistake in record keeping, a mistake that was done just in terms of not keeping proper driver logs. Nobody was injured, nobody was hurt, nobody lost any money," Einhorn said. "Any time public safety is involved, it's obviously a serious offense. The misconduct on his part came down to a failure to keep accurate driver logs."

Szteborowski will not appeal, but plans to return to his travel agency, financial services and other businesses in Little Poland, Einhorn said.

"His family has a terrific reputation in the community. He feels bad that this instance essentially resulted in a criminal case," Einhorn said.

Prosecutors described Szteborowski as an unrepentant recidivist criminal, pointing out that his record includes two fraud convictions.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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