News and Press Releases

Company Lied About Strength of Steel Used as Casing for Light Rail Columns

March 19, 2009

DAVID APPLEBY, 51, the President of Appleby NW, Inc., a steel fabrication company located in Granite Falls, Washington, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to Making and Using False Documents in relation to his work on the Sound Transit light rail project. APPLEBY is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour on July 10, 2009.

According to the information, Appleby NW, Inc. is a subcontractor working on the light rail project. Appleby NW, Inc. successfully bid to fabricate steel casings for the footings for the four mile elevated portion of the light rail line in Tukwila, Washington. The casings are large metal tubes, ten or twelve feet in diameter that encase the concrete pilings just below the ground surface. According to the specifications, the casings were supposed to be manufactured from M270 Grade 50 steel. Grade 50 steel is defined as having a minimum yield strength of 50,000 pounds per square inch. DAVID APPLEBY purchased steel plates from Oregon Steel Mills, Inc. to fabricate into the casings. After the first batch of steel plates was ordered, DAVID APPLEBY was aware the steel did not meet the contract specifications. When DAVID APPLEBY placed a second order for steel plates in October 2005, he purchased Grade 36 steel, which had a minimum yield strength of 36,000 pounds per square inch.

Oregon Steel Mills provided DAVID APPLEBY and Appleby NW, Inc. with a Report of Chemical/Physical Tests for the steel plates it supplied. These reports stated that the steel was Grade 36 steel. DAVID APPLEBY then altered these reports and provided the falsified reports to Sound Transit. The falsified reports made it appear that Appleby NW, Inc. had fabricated the casings out of Grade 50 steel, when in fact casings had been fabricated out of Grade 36 steel. Between May 2005 and November 2006, APPLEBY falsified 36 reports and provided them to Sound Transit. The reports were subsequently provided to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) which provides funding for Sound Transit.

Appleby NW, Inc. supplied more than 150 casings to the light rail project, the majority of which did not meet the contract standards. Both Sound Transit and the Federal Transit Administration asked experts to evaluate the use of the lesser grade steel. The studies concluded there is no safety issue.

Making and Using False Documents is punishable by up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release.

The case was investigated by the FBI and the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (DOT-OIG).

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Carl Blackstone.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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