Chicago Man Pleads Guilty to Manufacturing Defective Bridge Bearings on North Carolina Highway Projects
On April 16, 2015, Joel De La Torre, of Chicago, pled guilty in U.S. District Court, Raleigh, North Carolina, on charges of making false statements concerning highway projects and aggravated identity theft. The charges were related to De La Torre's role in the business, Delgado’s Elastomeric Bearings Corporation (Delgado’s), where he forged documents and participated in manufacturing defective elastomeric bridge bearings that were used on bridges in 25 different North Carolina highway projects between May 2009 and October 2011. The elastomeric bearings are load bearing and provide support for bridges.
The Federal Highway Administration funded the projects and determined that a total of 1,270 of Delgado’s bearings were found to be nonconforming and defective. The investigation also disclosed a falsified North Carolina application to supply bridge bearings to local contractors. The name of a teenager was falsely listed as the vice president of Delgado’s, when in fact the teenager had no knowledge of this title or how to manufacture bridge bearings. This same name and title had also been used on all certificates sent to North Carolina highway contractors certifying the conformity of the bearings with applicable state and federal regulations.
Costs associated with the replacement of the bearings are expected to exceed $5 million due to the difficulty in removing the bearings from beneath existing bridge structures, engineering costs, and traffic control.
We are working this case jointly with the FBI.