March 24, 2017
Painting Company Owner Charged in Payroll Scheme on FHWA-Funded Bridge Project in Philadelphia
On March 24, 2017, Maria Savakis of Merritt Island, Florida, was charged by information in U.S. District Court, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with theft from a health-care program. The charges relate to a fraudulent payroll scheme involving construction work performed on the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)-funded George C. Platt Memorial Bridge Project (Platt Bridge Project) in Philadelphia.
In April 2011, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) awarded an approximately $42.7-million federally funded contract to perform structural steel painting and repairs on the Platt Bridge. PennDOT awarded the contract to a joint venture (JV) composed of two companies, one of which was owned by Savakis.
The information alleged that Savakis devised and carried out a payroll scheme under which the JV paid its employees on two separate payrolls. One payroll, which constituted only a portion of the hours worked, was reported on the certified payrolls at the full prevailing wage rate required by the contract. The second payroll, which paid the employees for their remaining hours at a lower rate, was not reported on the certified payrolls. As part of the payroll scheme, and as a consequence of submitting false certified payrolls to PennDOT and the Department of Labor (DOL), Savakis caused the JV to retain money that it was obligated by law, and under contract, to deposit on behalf of its employees into the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades’ District Council No. 21 Welfare Fund. The information also contains a forfeiture order in the amount of $61,689.52.
DOT-OIG is conducting this ongoing investigation jointly with the FBI, DOL-OIG, Environmental Protection Agency-Criminal Investigation Division, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation. FHWA provided substantial assistance.
Note: Indictments, informations, and criminal complaints are only accusations by the Government. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.