J.A. McDonald, Inc. and Owner Eric Boyden Pay $270,000 to Settle Allegations of False Claims Act Violations Arising From Bridge Construction
The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont announced today that general contractor J.A. McDonald, Inc. (“JAM”), headquartered in Lyndon Center, Vermont, and JAM owner and president, Eric Boyden, have paid $270,000 to the United States to resolve allegations that JAM violated the federal False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729, and the Vermont False Claims Act, 32 V.S.A. 631, by knowingly causing the State of Vermont to present false claims for payment to the United States in connection with the federally-funded construction of a two-span bridge on Vermont Route 116 in Bristol, Vermont.
More specifically, the settlement resolves allegations that JAM employees intentionally altered critical bridge components such that the bridge no longer conformed to specified safety standards, and that JAM employees took affirmative steps to conceal such alterations from the Vermont Agency of Transportation (“VTrans”). As a result of the alleged cover-up, VTrans unwittingly paid JAM for deficient bridge work and in turn presented a number of false claims to the Federal Highway Administration (“FHWA”) for the reimbursement of the federal share of amounts paid to JAM.
In cooperation with federal and state authorities, JAM has since replaced the allegedly-deficient bridge components at its own cost and under the supervision of VTrans inspectors. JAM has also terminated its employment of two employees who allegedly directed the foregoing scheme.
“As exemplified by this settlement, contractors who cut corners on taxpayer-funded projects will face serious consequences,” said Acting United States Attorney Eugenia A.P. Cowles. “We will not hesitate to aggressively pursue and hold accountable those who knowingly or recklessly bill the government for faulty goods or services, particularly where public safety is a concern.”
“This investigation demonstrates how to not conduct business on public infrastructure projects in the United States. The Office of Inspector General is committed to investigating fraudulent acts and the individuals who commit them,” said Todd Damiani, regional Special Agent-in-Charge of the United States Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (“OIG”). “We encourage anyone who may have information about fraud affecting taxpayer dollars on public transportation projects to come forward and report it. The OIG is committed to working with our Federal, State and local law enforcement and prosecutorial partners to hold accountable those who engage in fraudulent activities.”
“The message is that we will work with our federal partners to uphold the integrity of the federal-aid highway construction program,” said Vermont Secretary of Transportation Joe Flynn. “Those who attempt to hide defective work will be held accountable. I am pleased that McDonald’s senior management cooperated with the investigation.”
Pursuant to the terms of the settlement agreement entered into by the United States, the State of Vermont, JAM, and Boyden, the settlement constitutes neither an admission of liability by JAM or Boyden nor a concession by the United States or the State of Vermont that the claims asserted are not well founded. The claims settled in this matter are allegations only; there has been no judicial determination of liability.
This matter was investigated by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont and the OIG, with assistance from the FHWA, VTrans, and the Vermont Attorney General’s Office.
Assistant United States Attorney Ben Weathers-Lowin handled the matter on behalf of the United States. VTrans was represented by Vermont Assistant Attorney Generals John K. Dunleavy and Toni Hamburg Clithero, and JAM and Boyden were represented by John T. Sartore of the firm Paul Frank + Collins P.C.