Former construction company president sentenced for attempting to monopolize highway construction, repair contracts
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Montana
BILLINGS — The former president of a paving and asphalt contractor based in Billings was sentenced today to three years of probation, with six months of home detention, and fined $27,000 after he admitted to attempting to monopolize the market for highway crack-sealing services in Montana and Wyoming, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.
Nathan Nephi Zito, 44, of Billings, pleaded guilty in October 2022 to an information charging him with one felony count of attempted monopolization in violation of the Sherman Act.
The government alleged in court documents that Zito attempted to cheat the competitive bidding process by monopolizing the markets for highway crack-sealing services in Montana and Wyoming by proposing that his company and its competitor allocate regional markets. As early as January 2020, Zito approached a competitor about a “strategic partnership” and proposed that the competitor stop competing with Zito’s company for highway crack-sealing projects administered by Montana and Wyoming. In return, Zito’s company would stop competing with the competitor for projects administered by South Dakota and Nebraska. Zito offered to pay his competitor $100,000 as additional compensation for lost business in Montana and Wyoming. Zito further proposed that he and his competitor enter into a sham transaction to disguise their collusion.
“If Zito had succeeded in his efforts to game the competitive bidding process, there would have been a dangerous probability he would have eliminated competition and been free to raise prices or limit production, which would have negatively impacted the American taxpayer. I am grateful to Assistant United States Attorney Bryan Dake and our valued partners at both the Antitrust Division within the Department of Justice and the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General for their creative and hard work on this case,” U.S. Attorney Laslovich said.
“Defendant Zito’s sentence should serve as a deterrent for contractors tempted by greed when bidding on contracts funded with federal dollars,” said Cissy Tubbs, Special Agent-In-Charge, Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Inspector General (OIG), Western Region. “We rely on DOT operating agencies such as the Federal Highway Administration to sound the alarm when circumstances in these complex bidding processes seem amiss, as occurred here. Consequently, OIG is committed to pursuing these multifaceted cases with our partners including the Justice Department’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force, the Antitrust Division, and the Montana United States Attorney’s Office.”
The case is the result of a joint investigation conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana and the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General as part of the Justice Department’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF). In November 2019, the Department of Justice created the Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF), a joint law enforcement effort to combat antitrust crimes and related fraudulent schemes that impact government procurement, grant and program funding at all levels of government – federal, state and local. To learn more about the PCSF, or to report information on market allocation, price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct related to defense-related spending, go to https://www.justice.gov/procurement-collusion-strike-force.
Anyone with information in connection with this investigation should contact the Antitrust Division’s Complaint Center at 888-647-3258, or visit http://www.justice.gov/atr/report-violations.
Clair Johnson Howard
Public Affairs Officer
Updated March 29, 2023