9/15/2015North Carolina Ignores Fraud To Build Toll Road
North Carolina pushes forward on building toll road despite fraud convictions involving prime contractor.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation will not allow fraud convictions to stand in the way of building another toll road. On Friday, the agency announced it was moving forward with the controversial Monroe Bypass, an $840 million project connecting Union County and Mecklenburg County. US District Judge James C. Dever III gave the project a green light on Thursday by tossing a lawsuit filed an environmental group opposed to growth.
"Judge Dever's ruling is a major win for the people of North Carolina and allows the state to continue work on an important connector, the Monroe Expressway," Governor Pat McCrory (R) said in a statement.
The largest share of the lucrative $367 million federally funded construction contract was awarded in 2010 to a company run by executives who admitted they defrauded the government.
To land the tolling deal, Carl Andrews Boggs III pretended that his company would use trucks from Styx Trucking -- a minority-owned firm. This helped the state government meet its quota for working with "disadvantaged business enterprises." Under federal rules, states must set aside a one-tenth of project funds for companies owned by minorities.
Instead of actually performing work, Styx Trucking acted as a pass through for the government cash. When government payments were made to Styx for hauling services on the project, an employee of Boggs would write a check from the Styx bank account to put the money into a Boggs account. John Cuthbertson, owner of Styx, collected a kickback on each transaction.
To complete the fraud, magnetic "Styx" logos were used to cover up the Boggs Paving logos painted on the sides of the construction trucks.
"When individuals and businesses attempt to conceal their criminal profits, complex financial transactions and money laundering schemes will exist, IRS Criminal Investigation and our law enforcement partners will be present as well, unraveling such schemes in order to bring those responsible to justice," IRS special agent Thomas J. Holloman said in a statement.
Neither the guilty pleas nor the lawsuit from Clean Air Carolina could dissuade NCDOT from proceeding. Judge Dever cleared the final hurdle in finding that the activist group failed to make a convincing case. The group attempted to argue that the toll road's environmental impact reports were insufficient because they failed to consider a "mass transit" option and used inaccurate traffic forecasts, according to the group's experts.
"Plaintiffs have not met their burden of showing that defendants failed to take a sufficient 'hard look' at the reasonable alternatives," Judge Dever ruled. "it is not this court's role under the National Environmental Policy Act to referee expert disputes when the agency reasonably evaluates the relevant factors."
A copy of the ruling is available in a 500k PDF file at the source link below.