| Connect Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook
About | Subscribe | Advertise


Download our Free Top Contractors e-Resource Guide.

Paint and Coatings Industry News

Main News Page

Feds Suspend Painting JV for Fraud

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

More items for Program/Project Management

Comment | More

An industrial painting joint venture has been suspended from government contract work following charges of destroying protected nesting sites and hiding employment of undocumented workers on a $70 million Philadelphia bridge project.

The Federal Highway Administration announced July 16 the suspension and proposed debarment of Liberty Alpha Joint Venture, comprised of Youngtown, OH-based Liberty Maintenance Inc. and Baltimore, MD-based Alpha Painting & Construction.

The suspension is based on an indictment charging company officials with lying to government officials about undocumented workers on the $70 million Girard Point Bridge painting project.

The Philadelphia project was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment (federal stimulus) act.

Girard Point Bridge
Wikimedia Commons / Davidt8

Liberty Alpha Joint Venture has been suspended by the FHWA indefinitely after allegedly destroying protected falcon nesting sites and hiring illegal workers on the Girard Point Bridge project in Philadelphia.

The employment of illegal workers was brought to light when investigators started questioning company officials about the disturbance of protected peregrine falcons.

Violating PennDOT Contract

The FHWA indefinitely suspended Liberty Maintenance Inc., Liberty Alpha Joint Venture, Alpha Painting & Construction, Nikolaos Frangos, George Capuzello, and Mikhail Zubialevich (aka "Russian MIke") from participating in U.S. government funded projects and contracts, pending debarment proceedings.

The suspension resulted from a federal indictment, filed May 13 and unsealed May 21, charging Frangos, Capuzello, and Zubialevich with criminal conspiracy, witness tampering, perjury, false statements, and harboring an alien.

According to the indictment by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia, Frangos was part owner of Liberty Maintenance and a principal of the joint venture. Capuzello was a foreman for the joint venture and assigned to supervise a painting crew on the Girard Point Bridge project. Zubialevich was an employee of the joint venture  assigned to a painting crew under the direct supervision of Capuzello.

The indictment alleges that Liberty Alpha JV employees, including an illegal immigrant, violated a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation contract when "they disturbed and ultimately destroyed protected bird species nesting sites."

Frightening the Falcons

The PennDOT contract safeguarded nesting sites along the Girard Point Bridge, which has been a nesting site for peregrine falcons for many years, according to the indictment. The species is protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Pennsylvania Endangered Species Act.

The contract required the joint venture to hire a qualified "dedicated observer" to monitor the habitat and nesting areas, according to the indictment.

The contract specified that Liberty Alpha JV agreed to refrain from working on areas of the falcons' nests during nesting season.

peregrine falcon
Pennsylvania Game Commission / Joe Kosack

PennDOT's contract required safeguarding of the peregrine falcon's nesting sites, including having a qualified observer on hand to monitor the habitat and nesting areas.

However, on June 4, 2011, Capuzello allegedly directed Zubialevich and Walter Morgan, aka Walter Eduardo Morgan Gomez, to perform grinding or sanding in the "restricted zone," which frightened and disturbed the falcons, causing them to abandon their nest.

Hiding Illegal Employment

Morgan allegedly gained his employment with the company by using a Social Security number that did not belong to him and falsely claiming U.S. citizenship on an I-9 form, according to an August 2013 indictment.

After entering the U.S. illegally, Morgan allegedly used the false information to obtain employment with Liberty Alpha JV on the Girard Point Bridge and another federally funded project: painting and restoration of the 30th Street Train Station in Philadelphia.

Frangos allegedly didn't want enforcement authorities to discover that the joint venture had employed illegal aliens, so the defendants allegedly conspired to hide Morgan's identity when confronted by government agents about the falcons.

Frangos and Capuzello also allegedly also intimidated another worker into saying that he had been responsible for disturbing the site.

Decades in Prison

If convicted, Frangos faces a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison; Capuzello faces a maximum of 40 years in prison; and Zubialevich faces up to 20 years in prison.

Morgan faces a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment, a three-year term of supervision following his release, a $500,000 fine, and a $200 special assessment.

The indictment is part of a larger investigation looking into allegations of Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) fraud and corruption on bridge painting projects in the Philadelphia area.

The FHWA is investigating the case with the Federal Bureau of Investigation; U.S. Department of Labor OIG; Social Security Administration OIG; Homeland Security Investigations; Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division; Amtrak OIG; and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division.


Tagged categories: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; Bridges; Criminal acts; Department of Transportation (DOT); Environmental Protection; Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); Government contracts; Workers

Comment from Chuck Pease, (8/5/2014, 7:50 PM)

Ten dollars to a donut, no one gets any time out of this. Any takers???

Comment from Mike McCloud, (8/6/2014, 6:17 AM)

I’ll bet it will cost them $30,000.00 in fines.

Comment from Car F., (8/11/2014, 11:58 AM)

I wish the same diligence and penalties would be imposed on the constant strings of employers who willfully disregard safefty resulting in the death of workers.

Comment from Mark Puckett, (9/4/2014, 12:44 PM)

kinda makes you wonder why these two companies dont appear in QP1&2 DAC

Comment Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.

Desco Mfg. Co., Inc.

Steel Fabrication

• Shipyards
• Plate Fabrication
• Structural Steel
• Maintenance

DESCO Mfg.Co., Inc.

Novatek Corporation
Novatek Corporation, Dustless Coatings Removal

Strip, clean and profile all dust free! Comply with new lead standards. Contact today: (866) 563-7800

Tarps manufacturing, Inc.
QUALITY MADE IN AMERICA —Available near you!

CLICK to get a behind-the-scenes look at how Tarps Manufacturing makes the highest-quality tarps right here in the USA — available nationwide.

Specialty Products, Inc. (SPI)
Polyurea & Polyurethane Spray Foam Training

SPI is committed to industry leading technical training for polyurea & polyurethane spray foam professionals. Attendees receive hands-on, in-depth training for using and troubleshooting plural-component equipment, spray guns, machine hoses & parts.

US Minerals
US Minerals -
Black Magnum

With nationwide production and distribution capabilities, U.S. Minerals supplies a complete range of coal slag and other abrasives to meet all of your blasting needs.

Vector Technologies Ltd.
The Original Performance Proven Vacuum Solutions

Vecloader DV 145, 350hp 6200 CFM & 28’’hg. For those big jobs, choose Vector for the most powerful trailer mounted vacuum in the industry today. 800-832-4010, 414-247-7100.

Abrasives Inc.
Check our Prices for Blast Abrasives

Faced with higher abrasive costs? We invite you to call & check our rates on Black Magic® coal slag and other quality blast materials. Abrasives Inc. 800-584-7524

Sherwin-Williams General Polymers Resinous Flooring App

Our coatings and linings expertise available 24/7, allowing you to explore the Sherwin-Williams systems best suited for your flooring needs. Download the app today!

HoldTight Solutions Inc.

Our HoldTight®102 salt remover & flash rust
preventer prevents flash
rust by removing surface contaminants. Contact us
for your nearest distributor.
(800) 319.8802

SAFE Systems, Inc.
SAFE Systems'
Blast Lights &
Deadman Switches

Halogen or LED blast lights available with our NEW urethane bumper. Switches available in many colors for color coding your hoses.

Technology Publishing

The Technology Publishing Network

The Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings (JPCL) PaintSquare
Durability + Design Paint BidTracker

EXPLORE:      JPCL   |   PaintSquare News   |   Interact   |   Buying Guides   |   Webinars   |   Resources   |   Classifieds
REGISTER AND SUBSCRIBE:      Free PaintSquare Registration   |   Subscribe to JPCL   |   Subscribe to PaintSquare News
MORE:      About   |   Privacy policy   |   Terms & conditions   |   Site Map   |   Search   |   Contact Us

© Copyright 2000-2016, Technology Publishing / PaintSquare, All rights reserved
2100 Wharton Street, Suite 310, Pittsburgh PA 15203-1951; Tel 1-412-431-8300; Fax 1-412-431-5428; E-mail