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Manufacturer of Defective North Carolina Bridge Parts Sentenced to 3 Years in Federal Prison

On April 21, 2016, Joel De La Torre, of Chicago, IL, was sentenced in U.S. District Court, Raleigh, NC, to 35 months in federal prison, 3 years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $21,509 in restitution for making false statements concerning highway projects and aggravated identity theft. The sentence relates to his role in the business, Delgado’s Elastomeric Bearings Corporation (Delgado’s), where he forged documents and participated in manufacturing defective elastomeric bridge bearings, which are shock absorbers for bridges. These defective bearings were sold to multiple North Carolina highway contractors for use on numerous bridges in the State.

In October 2011, a Federal highway contractor discovered a defect in a grouping of elastomeric bridge bearings that had been shipped by Delgado’s for use on bridges in North Carolina. The bearings were defective because the steel plates were exposed, subjecting them to the elements and creating the potential for deterioration. In total, 1,270 of the shipped bearings were found to be nonconforming and defective. The bearings were shipped in connection with 25 different highway projects in North Carolina between May 2009 and October 2011. Costs associated with the replacement of the bearings are expected over time to exceed $5 million due to the difficulty in removing the bearings from beneath existing structures, engineering costs, and traffic control. 

DOT-OIG conducted this investigation with the FBI.