State, federal lawsuits pin defective DC Metro concrete on contractor
- The U.S. Department of Justice and the Commonwealth of Virginia have filed suit against Universal Concrete Products Corp., the manufacturer of concrete panels for the Washington, D.C., Metro's $5.8 billion Silver Line project, alleging violations of the False Claims Act and Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, as well as unjust enrichment and payment by mistake, according to court documents. Universal was working on the project under a $6 million purchase order contract with design-builder Capital Rail Constructors (Clark Construction Group and Kiewit Infrastructure South).
- In the July 9 action against Universal and co-defendants Donald Faust Jr., company president and co-owner, and Andrew Nolan, former quality control manager, the Justice Department and Virginia authorities claim that Universal knowingly provided panels that did not have the required air content for use on the Silver Line project and falsified documents so that it would appear the panels met the project specifications. The air content in the panels should have been between 4.5% and 7.5% to allow for expansion during winter weather in order to avoid freeze-thaw ruptures, but the air content in Universal's panels was allegedly less than 4%.
- The Department of Justice is participating in the lawsuit because the federal government, through the U.S. Department of Transportation, has provided more than $1.2 billion in federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loans for the project. The involvement of the Department of Justice began after former Universal employee Nathan Davidheiser filed a lawsuit against the company as a relator, or whistleblower, under the False Claims Act, which allows a person to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the United States for fraudulent claims.
Contractors found guilty of False Claims Act violations often face prison time, restitution and steep fines. In fact, the Justice Department collected $3.7 billion in settlements and judgments from false claim cases in fiscal year 2017, which ended in September.
The Justice Department's fiscal 2017 cases included one against Bechtel National Inc., Bechtel Corp., URS Corp. (predecessor in interest to AECOM Global II LLC) and URS Energy and Construction Inc. (now known as AECOM Energy and Construction Inc.). The contractors agreed to pay $125 million to settle allegations that they made false statements and claims to the Department of Energy by charging the department for deficient nuclear quality materials and services for a waste treatment plant near Richland, Washington. The settlement also resolved government claims that Bechtel used federal contract dollars to lobby federal lawmakers for continued funding at the plant.
The Justice Department also settled false claims allegations in April 2017 with Energy & Process Corp., which the agency accused of delivering defective steel reinforcing bars to a nuclear waste treatment facility in Aiken, South Carolina. Energy & Process has admitted no wrongdoing but settled the Justice Department case for $4.6 million.
- The Washington Post Virginia, U.S. sue company behind defective Metro Silver Line concrete
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