The head of Amtrak’s operations at Chicago’s Union Station pleaded guilty to a steering contract associated with the popular “Polar Express” Christmas-time train rides.
Federal prosecutors revealed today that Benjamin Sheets secured a no-bid contract for his wife’s company to operate a photo booth during the event. Visitors were charged $10 per picture. The photo booth generated $36,790. Prosecutors suggest Sheets was motivated by personal debt. After receiving an email from his wife listing debts in excess of $25,000, court records indicate Sheets responded via email “we need to write an agreement for Polar Express.”
The U.S. Attorney’s office says the scheme began to unravel when one of Sheets’ bosses noticed the couple working the photo booth during the event. Sheets later told investigators from Amtrak’s inspector general’s office that his wife’s company received the contract through a third-party and then fabricated documents to reflect that, according to the feds. Prosecutors say Sheets also served as business manager for his wife’s photo business and failed to disclose it to investigators.
Sheets, 50, of Downers Grove, pleaded guilty to making false statements to Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General. The crime carries a maximum of 5 years in prison. However the guilty plea makes it likely the punishment will be far less severe.
An Amtrak spokesperson tells WGN Sheets is no longer employed by Amtrak.