A contractor working on a highway project in Rhode Island has agreed to pay $1.5 million in fines and its former project superintendent pleaded guilty to criminal charges in deals with the U.S. Attorney’s Office over improperly sourced fill that did not meet environmental requirements.
Barletta Heavy Division Inc. is the lead contractor of the design-build joint venture awarded a $247.6-million contract for Rhode Island Dept. of Transportation (RIDOT)’s Route 6/10 interchange project. In addition to reconstructing the interchange, the project includes removing or replacing seven structurally deficient bridges.
Work began in 2018 and is expected to complete in 2023.
Federal prosecutors say Barletta’s former superintendent on the project, Dennis Ferreira, arranged for stone and soil to be imported from other projects the company was working on in violation of the project soil and materials management plan that had been approved by the Rhode Island Dept. of Environmental Management.
Th material included 93 truckloads of stone totaling about 3,460 tons or 2,604 cu yd from a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority project in Jamaica Plain, Mass., records show. The material had not been tested for contamination before it was trucked over, and investigators say Ferreira used tests from another MBTA project of Barletta's to make it seem that the stone had tested clean. About a month later, tests revealed that the stone did not actually meet the project’s environmental requirements.
Barletta also imported 52 truckloads of contaminated soil that was not supposed to be removed from the company's train station and bus hub project in Pawtucket, R.I., records show.
“Today’s resolution should serve as a reminder to any company or corporate official that, when the government is footing the bill, false statements have consequences,” Cunha said.
Prosecutors: Barletta Cooperated
In addition to the fines, Barletta agreed to three years of monitoring, reporting and compliance measures. Officials wrote in the agreement that they decided that it was not necessary to appoint an independent compliance monitor, noting that Barletta has cooperated with the government, improved its compliance program and fired Ferreira.
“Barletta regrets the isolated actions of its employee in this matter, who is no longer with the company,” a company spokesperson said in a statement. Barletta added that it fully cooperated "and is satisfied with the resolution of this case.”
Ferreira pleaded guilty to three counts of making false statements in a highway project. He faces up to 15 years in prison and a $750,000 fine. Attorneys for Ferreria did not immediately respond to inquiries.
RIDOT will work with federal and state agencies to assure Barletta’s compliance with the contract, a spokesperson said in a statement.
“As a result of this resolution, RIDOT will now proceed with exercising all legal and financial remedies afforded under our contract provisions with Barletta,” they said.