Men accused in UMass contractor kickback scheme deny charges

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (AP) — Two men charged with participating in a kickback scheme involving University of Massachusetts asbestos-removal contracts have pleaded not guilty.

John Strycharz, of Biddeford, Maine, and 58-year-old Victor Rodrigues, of Belchertown, denied fraud, illegal gratuity and other charges in court Wednesday.

Prosecutors say 57-year-old Strycharz, a former UMass-Amherst physical plant supervisor, and another employee, accepted money and gifts from Rodrigues, including vacations to Mexico, in exchange for using his company to remove asbestos and other hazardous materials from university buildings.

Authorities say the contracts with the school between 2008 and 2015 were worth millions of dollars.

An attorney for Rodrigues objected to his client’s conditions of release, including surrender of his passport, because of his strong ties to the area.

Strycharz appeared in court without his lawyer and was also released.

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