July 18, 2017
Painting Company Owner Sentenced in Payroll Scheme on a $43M Bridge Painting Contract in Philadelphia
On July 18, 2017, Maria Savakis, of Merritt Island, Florida, was sentenced in U.S. District Court, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to 2 years of probation and $2,600 in fines. Previously, on April 18, 2017, Savakis pleaded guilty to theft from a healthcare program related to a $61,689 payroll scheme involving construction work performed on the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)-funded George C. Platt Memorial Bridge Project in Philadelphia. Savakis was charged by information in March 2017.
In April 2011, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) awarded Joint Venture (JV) an approximately $42.7 million contract to perform structural steel painting and repairs on the Platt Bridge. Joint Venture (JV) was composed of two companies; one of them, Hercules Painting Company, 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 DOT-funded 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 JV to retain $61,689 that the company was obligated by law and under contract to deposit on behalf of its employees into the welfare fund of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council No. 21. On May 11, 2017, FHWA suspended and proposed the debarment of Hercules Painting and Savakis.
DOT-OIG worked this is investigation jointly with the FBI, DOL-OIG, EPA-CID, Homeland Security Investigations, and IRS-Criminal Investigations. FHWA and PennDOT provided substantial assistance.