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Hagerstown man pleads guilty to making false statements

Santos Eliazar Rivas was accused of lying to the Federal Highway Administration regarding precast concrete

September 20, 2011

BALTIMORE — A Hagerstown man has pleaded guilty in federal court to making false statements to the Federal Highway Administration regarding precast concrete used in the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and other highway projects, prosecutors said.

Santos Eliazar Rivas, 32, pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to three counts of making false statements, according to a news release from the office of Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.

Rivas, who faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count, is scheduled for sentencing before U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett on Dec. 19, the release said.

As part of the plea agreement, Rivas will pay restitution in an amount to be determined by the court.

Rivas "falsely certified that his company was delivering the precast concrete the government was paying for, and the government relied on that certification," Rosenstein said in the release. "Although the inferior quality of the concrete was concealed, a cracked structure led to an investigation that exposed a pattern of misrepresentations."

Rivas was named the director of quality control and assurance for Frederick Precast Concrete Inc. in 2002, the release said. The company produced precast concrete structures used in the construction of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge between Maryland and Virginia, and the Interstate-70/Baltimore National Pike projects, the release said.

In June 2007, a cracked precast structure used for approach roadways on the Baltimore National Pike job site was discovered by a Maryland State Highway Administration inspector and an employee for a contractor, the release said. The structure had two layers of steel rebar rather than the required three, and the steel bars were of a smaller gauge than specified, the release said.

An investigation that summer turned up other Frederick Precast products delivered to job sites that failed to meet specifications, including some that substituted wire mesh for steel rebar, making them weaker than they were designed to be, the release said.

The investigation that summer revealed "Rivas signed off on shipping tickets listing precast structures whose concrete mix either had not been tested at all, or had been tested and failed" to meet load requirements of 4,500 pounds per square inch, the release said.

The SHA paid three contractors at least $131,410 for the deficient materials, which had been purchased from Frederick Precast, the release said.

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