Filter plant corruption doesn't surprise critics

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One contractor that worked on the Croton Water Filtration Plant admitted to fraud last month. Another is now under investigation for corruption.

For those who have fought against the project since the beginning, the most recent news is simply another scandal tied to an already scandalous project.

Last month, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York announced that the Schiavone Construction Company will pay the United States $20 million for committing fraud while working on several public works projects, including two contracts totaling $350 million for the Department of Environmental Protection’s Croton facility.

Skanska, a Swedish construction juggernaut, is currently being investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. The company’s contracts with the Croton facility totals $1.3 billion.

Schiavone was required to subcontract a certain amount of work to certified minority and women-owned businesses as part of a state program to create work opportunities. But according to the DEP, between 2002 and 2007, three employees of Schiavone engaged in a scheme that showed minority- and women-owned businesses working at the water facility on paper while other contractors were actually doing the work.

By engaging in the scheme, Schiavone “falsely overstated the actual participation of MWBE company participation for the DEP and MTA Projects by an aggregate approximate amount of at least $20 million,” according to the non-prosecution agreement Schiavone signed.

The scheme was uncovered by an independent monitor, Toby Thatcher, who was hired by the DEP to look into the companies working on the project. Mr. Thatcher began investigating the project in 2007 auditing invoices, analyzing contracts and performing background checks on the companies involved, according to a spokesperson for the DEP.

In addition to the $20 million, Schiavone agreed to pay more than $2 million to cover investigative costs as part of the deal. The men involved in the scheme were fired but Schiavone continues to work at the filtration plant.

At a Croton Facility Monitoring Committee meeting last week, members of the community expressed their disdain for the scandal and their dismay that the contractor continues to work on the project.

Mark Lanaghan, DEP’s assistant commissioner, did not have any words to comfort them.

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