Company Employee Pleads Guilty in Fraud Scheme Involving Highway Projects
On September 19, 2011, Santos Eliazar Rivas pled guilty in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Maryland, to three counts of making false statements in a matter involving the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). According to the plea agreement, Mr. Rivas became the Director of Quality Control for Frederick Precast Concrete, Inc. (FPC), a company that produced precast concrete structures, including structures for drainage, used in construction projects involving the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and the I-70/Baltimore National Pike Project. Mr. Rivas' duties included overseeing the manufacturing of the company's precast products and ensuring the company's compliance with state regulations.
The investigation disclosed that FPC's products delivered to federally-funded project sites failed to conform to state-approved specifications. Certain structures contained the wrong number and/or type of steel rebar pieces in their frames; others contained unapproved substitutions of wire mesh in place of steel rebar. Accordingly, none of these structures conformed to state-approved specifications, and all of them were materially weaker than if they had been produced according to design. The investigation further disclosed that on numerous occasions, Mr. Rivas signed off on shipping tickets listing precast structures whose concrete mix either had not been tested at all, or had been tested and failed to reach the requirement to withstand at least 4,500 pounds per square inch. Based on the shipping tickets that Mr. Rivas falsely certified on behalf of FPC, the Maryland State Highway Administration (MSHA) paid three prime contractors at least $131,410 for the deficient materials, who in turn, paid FPC.
Mr. Rivas' sentencing is scheduled for December 19, 2011. Mr. Rivas is an illegal alien and is currently being detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) pending sentencing.
This is a joint investigation with ICE, FHWA, and MSHA.