Firm ordered to pay $8.5m over collusive bids

18 June 2021

A US engineering firm has pleaded guilty to a bid rigging and fraud scheme lasting a decade.

The North Carolina firm was ordered to pay a fine of $7m and more than $1.5m in restitution to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT).

Contech Engineered Solutions LLC (Contech) admitted conspiring to rig bids to the NCDOT and conspiring to defraud the NCDOT to obtain contracts for infrastructure projects.

The conspiracies started at least as early as 2009 and continued at least until March 2018. Former Contech executive Brent Brewbaker was charged as a co-defendant in the same six-count indictment, and he remains under indictment.

Contech pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Sherman Act and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud.

“This is a case about fraud and collusion in the North Carolina bidding process for certain water drainage system components,” said acting US attorney G. Norman Acker III for the Eastern District of North Carolina. “All taxpayers lose when companies submit false records in an effort to game the bidding system.”

According to the indictment filed last October, Contech and Brewbaker conspired to rig bids for aluminium structure projects funded by the US and NCDOT.

The projects included headwalls and other structures that facilitate drainage underneath or around paved roads, bridges, and overpasses. 

Contech and Brewbaker were also charged with defrauding the NCDOT by submitting bids that were falsely held out to be competitive and free of collusion, and using the US Postal Service and email to carry out their scheme.

In November 2019 the Department of Justice created the Procurement Collusion Strike Force, a joint law enforcement effort to combat antitrust crimes and related fraudulent schemes that impact government procurement and grant and programme funding.

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