Dartmouth Contractor Settles Claims of Fraud With DOJ
DARTMOUTH — A Dartmouth subcontractor and an Illinois construction management firm have together agreed to pay $1.2 million to settle allegations of fraud in a Massachusetts bridge improvement project.
The U.S. Department of Justice said Wednesday that Dartmouth-based Melo's Rodbusters, Inc. and the Walsh Construction Company have settled False Claims Act allegations that they took advantage of the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program.
MassDOT awarded Walsh and a partner the contract for federally funded improvements to the Whittier Bridge on I-95 in Amesbury in February 2013.
Walsh subcontracted with certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, including Melo's, which is based on Smith Neck Road in Dartmouth and was hired to furnish and install steel rebar for the project.
Businesses owned by socially or economically disadvantaged people — defined by the U.S. Department of Transportation as members of certain disadvantaged groups, including women, minorities, or those with disabilities — can be certified as a DBE, which allows them opportunities to work on federally funded projects.
However, the work must actually be done by the disadvantaged business — they are not allowed to act as merely a cover for another company to complete the work.
The bridge improvement project was completed in 2018.
But according to the DOJ, Walsh admitted that it helped with certain work functions that were supposed to be completed by Melo's, including selecting suppliers and negotiating prices.
The Dartmouth contractor also admitted to providing inaccurate information to MassDOT regarding a price negotiation with suppliers, the DOJ stated.
Melo's Rodbusters has agreed to pay $146,102, while Walsh will pay $1,099,000 to resolve the allegations.
A representative from Melo's could not immediately be reached for comment.