Former Federal Official Admits Self-Dealing Federal Grants to New Jersey Universities
TRENTON, N.J. – The former assistant division administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), New Jersey Division, today admitted using a straw company to fraudulently obtain grant funds, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Lawrence F. Cullari Jr., 43, of Tinton Falls, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan in Trenton federal court to an information charging him with one count of mail fraud.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
The defendant was the assistant division administrator at the FHWA’s New Jersey Division from 2010 through July 2013 and was able to influence the allocation of U.S. Department of Transportation funding. He also operated a private consulting and engineering company called Dencore Consulting, which was owned by his ex-wife. His former father-in-law owned and operated “Company 1,” an engineering company located in Middletown, New Jersey, that provided mechanical, plumbing and electrical designs for commercial and residential projects.
Cullari admitted that in 2006, he and his father-in-law agreed to use Company 1 as a straw contractor to get FHWA-funded work for Dencore Consulting from Rutgers University’s Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (Rutgers CAIT) and the N.J. Institute of Technology (NJIT). From May 2006 through June 2013, Cullari prepared bids and work proposals for Company 1 to sign and submit to Rutgers CAIT and NJIT. When Rutgers CAIT or NJIT awarded the projects to Company 1, Cullari arranged for the completion of engineering reports and invoices that fraudulently stated that Company 1 completed the work. After Rutgers CAIT or NJIT paid Company 1, its owner kept a small portion of the payment and wrote a check to Dencore Consulting for the remaining balance.
The mail fraud charge to which Cullari pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for June 22, 2015.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Regional Special Agent in Charge Douglas Shoemaker, and the N.J. Department of Transportation, Office of the Inspector General, for the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott B. McBride, Deputy Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Economic Crimes Unit.
Defense counsel: Bradley L. Henry Esq., New York