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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Federal prosecutors are asking a judge to sentence a former employee of a state highway contractor to one year of probation with three months of home confinement and a $40,000 fine for lying about using contaminated material in the 6/10 highway project.
Dennis Ferreira, a former employee of Barletta Heavy Division, Inc., pleaded guilty to three counts of making false statements in connection with highway projects in December. U.S. District Chief Judge John McConnell is scheduled to sentence Ferreira on Wednesday.
In a sentencing memorandum filed Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dulce Donovan wrote Ferreira — a 65-year-old resident of Holliston, Massachusetts — repeatedly lied to state and federal regulators, as well as his own coworkers, about using contaminated stone and other materials in an effort to save his company money.
“There is no place for any type of false statement in the context of federally funded highway projects,” Donovan wrote. “Over the course of several months, the defendant made and caused to be made multiple false statements to state and federal officials about the environmental quality of, quantity, and use of materials brought to the 6/10 Project.”
An investigation found Ferreira ordered the contaminated stone to be imported from a rail project in Massachusetts and dumped at the 6/10 project. Federal investigators said the level of contamination wasn’t known to Barletta because Ferreira didn’t have it tested as required.
“Previous to importing the ballast from Massachusetts, Barletta had been purchasing known clean stone from a private vendor,” Donovan wrote. “The defendant’s decision to import ballast from Massachusetts saved Barletta $45,429.80 it would have spent purchasing an equivalent amount of clean stone.”
In another instance, Barletta was contracted to do cleanup work at the Pawtucket Commuter Bus Hub and rail station. Again, investigators said Ferreira ordered a three-man team to remove the stone and relocate it at the Providence construction site, “despite being aware that removal of dirt was not permitted.”
Investigators said that Ferreira was asked about the material from Pawtucket by a R.I. Department of Transportation inspector and colleague at Barletta, to which Ferreira responded, “I can do whatever I want.”
In all, the investigation found Ferreira had authorized the removal of 52 truckloads of untested material from the Pawtucket job site to the 6/10.
The sentencing memo says Ferreira “brazenly suggested” three options to cover up his actions, including washing the material and testing it again, taking a “known clean sample” from another location and saying it was from the contaminated material, or changing the test results themselves.
The federal government relies on contractors to test their projects themselves because as Donovan wrote in the memo, “it is impossible for the governmental entities overseeing these hundred million dollar projects to police every aspect of companies’ adherence to what is required.”
RIDOT later ordered the removal of the contaminated material, and the rest was “capped well beneath the surface of the roadway,” according to the filing.
A calculation by U.S. probations officials puts Ferreira’s recommended sentence at 6-12 months behind bars. But the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s Office landed on probation with home confinement and a $40,000 fine because Ferreira has no criminal history and “spent a lifetime devoted to hard work.”
Donovan wrote the fine would act as a deterrent to others who consider deceiving federal regulators for financial gain.
Ferreira’s attorney Kevin Bristow will likely file a sentencing memorandum for his client ahead of the sentencing. He did not immediately return a call for comment.
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