Rewrite this post
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A former employee of a state highway contractor who admitted to using contaminated materials on the 6/10 highway project was sentenced to one year of probation and a $40,000 fine.
Dennis Ferreira, 65, of Holliston Massachusetts, pleaded guilty to three counts of making false statements in connection with highway projects in December.
U.S. District Chief Judge John McConnell spared Ferreira prison time — which federal prosecutors agreed with in a pre-sentencing memorandum filed last week — but said the punishment needed to include a “severe fine” to send a message to others who are considering lying to the government when involved on public works projects.
“The thing that is so serious about the crime here is our government, our society, and our way of life requires us to be honest,” McConnell said. “As soon as you put dishonesty into that, the system falls apart.”
Along with the fine, Ferreira is required to perform 100 hours of community service.
McConnell noted that Ferreira’s case was “unusual,” and told him, “You have lived an exemplary life except for this crime.”
A tearful Ferreira told the court he was “embarrassed and ashamed” for his actions.
“I made a mistake, and I take the responsibility for what I did,” Ferreira said. “This is not the way I wanted to end my career.”
Defense attorneys said Ferreira began working for Barletta construction when he was 16 years old, working alongside his father who was a foreman for the company.
“Dennis is here because he lied,” attorney Michael Beck said. “And he accepts responsibility.”
But Beck said Ferreira should not receive the three months of home confinement and $40,000 fine the government was seeking.
“Here is a man who has led an unblemished life for 65 years,” Beck told the judge. “It’s a life of hard work being a good friend, being a good father, being a good husband.”
Beck said Ferreira was motivated by the time period of the 6/10 project and felt rushed by the state to complete the job while fewer people were on the roads.
“That put immense pressure on companies like Barletta, but also humans like Mr. Ferreira,” Beck said. “It was a challenging time.”
Beck said the money he saved the company – an estimated $45,000 – by using the untested and contaminated material was “infinitesimal” compared to the $250 million price tag of the project.
“He made a bad decision, he acknowledges that,” Beck said. “But Mr. Ferreira is a wonderful, decent man who made a mistake in this case.”
Family and friends were in the courtroom to show support for Ferreira, including his wife and mother.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Dulce Donovan pushed back at the notion that Ferreira’s crimes were harmless, saying the defendant “frankly doesn’t care what the environmental requirements of the project are.”
Donovan noted that hundreds of workers on these projects make decisions every day, and the government relies on contractors to self-police.
“The strength of the statute is on lying as the final deterrent,” Donovan said.
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.
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.
Ferreira is also charged in a parallel state prosecution, facing four counts including operating a solid waste management facility without a license and for giving a false document to a public official. That case is ongoing.
A spokesperson for the R.I. Department of Transportation said in an email the agency cooperated with state and federal investigators in this case.
“We have a system in place and are pleased that all the agencies have worked together to ensure that justice is being served,” Ralph Valente said in an email.
. Keep all images. Remove “and links” at the beginning