U.S. attorneys, the FBI, labor and transportation officials announced on April 7, 2014 that Connecticut-based construction company Manafort Brothers, Inc. will pay $2.4 million and implement internal reforms subject to independent monitoring to resolve a multi-agency joint criminal and civil investigation into alleged fraud committed by the company in connection with a public works project that commenced in 2007.
As part of the resolution, Manafort admitted that it made false statements to the United States and the State of Connecticut Department of Transportation that disadvantaged business enterprises (DBE) performed subcontracted work on the federally and state funded relocation of Route 72 when, in fact, non-DBE performed the work.
Manafort submitted a bid to ConnDOT to serve as the general contractor on a federally and state funded road project. All qualifying bids were required to designate a percentage of work that would be performed by DBE, a requirement designed to provide socially and economically disadvantaged contractors, who have faced historical barriers to entry in the construction industry, with fair opportunities to compete for federally funded work.
The State of Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) determined that Manafort was the apparent low bidder for the project with bid of approximately $39,663,000. According to the pre-award bid documents, Manafort represented to ConnDOT that a particular DBE, identified as “Company #1,” would perform work under the contract totaling approximately $3,064,372, or 70 percent of the overall DBE goal. In its pre-award submission package, Manafort stated that Company #1 would furnish all supervision, labor and materials in respect to the work covered by the subcontract agreement. This work involved being responsible for the project’s reinforcing steel, materials for structural steel, furnishing a pedestrian bridge that would span the new roadway and the majority of work for a large retaining wall adjacent to the new highway.
The contract for the project was officially awarded to Manafort in August 2007 based, in part, on its representations that Company #1 would perform the work described in Manafort’s pre-award submission. However, during the course of the project, it was determined Company #1 was not performing most of the work that Manafort claimed it was performing. In fact, the investigation revealed that Manafort was utilizing Company #1 essentially as a pass-through entity. That is, Manafort would negotiate with and supervise subcontractors that it procured to perform work that Company #1 was supposed to perform or procure and supervise. The Government maintains that Manafort arranged to pay those contractors through Company #1 to skirt DBE regulations.
Under the terms of a non-prosecution agreement and civil settlement agreement with the government, Manafort represented that it has undertaken various remedial measures to ensure compliance with the DBE programs for its current and future federally funded construction projects. These measures include establishing a position for an Ethics and Compliance Officer at Manafort, forming a DBE compliance committee that meets regularly to review and address DBE-related issues, mandating DBE compliance training for Manafort employees, deploying software to insure that DBE are qualified to perform the work that they bid, removing the Manafort personnel directly involved in the misconduct, and continuing to assist law enforcement in its investigation. Manafort has also agreed to pay a civil fine of $2,460,722.02.
Manafort sought an unfair and illegal advantage over its competitors and deprived disadvantaged businesses of an opportunity to perform work on this taxpayer funded construction project. The non-prosecution agreement announced by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Connecticut addresses only the corporate criminal liability of Manafort, not potential criminal charges for any individual.
More details available at: http://www.justice.gov/usao/ct/Press2014/20140407-1.html.