Former FHWA Assistant Division Administrator in New Jersey Pleads Guilty to Fraud Scheme Related to Research Grants
On March 17, 2015, former Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) New Jersey Division, Assistant Division Administrator Lawrence Cullari, Jr. pleaded guilty to mail fraud. Cullari Jr., while in his official capacity, influenced the allocation of FHWA funding and the direction of federal and state transportation programs in order to unjustly enrich himself.
Between approximately May 2006 and June 2013, Cullari Jr., knowing that he was ineligible for FHWA-funded contracts as a result of his position at FHWA, used his former father-in-law’s engineering company as a "straw" subcontractor to obtain FHWA-funded work for his (and his ex-wife’s) consulting company, Dencore Consulting, LLC. This transportation-related work was contracted through Rutgers University’s Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) and the NJ Institute of Technology (NJIT). Based on Cullari Jr.’s contacts at Rutgers CAIT and NJIT, his former father-in-law’s engineering company was awarded over $150,000 in transportation related sub-contracts sponsored by FHWA. In reality, Cullari Jr. was responsible for preparing the bids and work proposals on behalf of the engineering company and arranged for the work products to be completed. After the engineering company received contract payments from Rutgers or NJIT, it cut checks to Dencore Consulting, which, in turn, cut checks to Cullari Jr. On at least one occasion, Dencore Consulting issued a $20,000 check to Cullari Jr. after he created a false $20,000 invoice for work purportedly rendered by a non-existent company. As part of his guilty plea, Cullari Jr. consented to a forfeiture money judgment, the amount to be determined at the time of sentencing.
Cullari Jr. served as the Acting Division Administrator, the top position in the NJ Division, from August 2013 through October 2013. He resigned from federal service in July 2014.