False FHWA claims land QC director home detention, steep restitution

A former director of Quality Control and Quality Assurance at Frederick Precast Concrete Inc. was sentenced to one year of home detention and ordered to pay $131,410 in restitution, settling pre-trial motions with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore.

The U.S. Attorney cited three instances of Santos Rivas falsely certifying that concrete products met Maryland Department of Transportation specifications covering two FHWA-funded projects for which Greencastle, Pa.-based Frederick Precast was a subcontractor: the Interstate 95/Woodrow Wilson Bridge, linking Maryland and Virginia across the Potomac River, and the Interstate 70 & Baltimore National Pike interchange.

Cracking on an I-70 structure in summer 2007 triggered a federal investigation into Frederick Precast’s production practices and recordkeeping. Findings led to an April 2011 complaint in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Maryland, Baltimore, the U.S. Attorney charging that concrete for two structures had not been tested or did not meet 4,500 psi strength required for shipping, while a third structure contained rebar of incorrect sizing or wire mesh as a rebar substitute.

A fall 2011 plea agreement saw Rivas acknowledge guilt in three counts of “making false statements in a matter within the jurisdiction of the Federal Highway Administration.” Those statements were his signature—accompanied by ACI Concrete Field Testing Technician—Grade 1 number—on shipping tickets certifying Frederick Precast had produced the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and I-70 structures to contract requirements.

The plea leading to a mid-December sentencing in Maryland District Court had indicated potential penalties of 15 years in prison and $750,000 in fines (five years, $250,000/each offense). The $131,410 restitution figure was based on the sum of payments for the three products whose delivery to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and I-70 sites was accepted on the basis of Rivas’ signature.