Bridge Engineer Impostor Sentenced
A Pennsylvania contractor who admitted forging the approval of unwitting engineers on hundreds of bridge and highway plans in 13 states has been sentenced to house arrest.
Matthew Williams, former owner of Clear Span Construction Products, LLC (Clear Span), was sentenced Sept. 2 in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh to four months of home confinement and 48 months probation. He was also ordered to pay $29,600 in restitution to five Professional Engineers (P.E.).
Charges and Settlement
Matthew Williams was charged in December 2013 with wire fraud in a scheme in which he falsified engineering documents on federally funded highway construction projects.
Clear Span, of Latrobe, PA, manufactured stay-in-place (permanent) metal bridge deck forms that were placed between either structural steel or pre-stressed concrete bridge girders.
The criminal charges followed a $50,000 civil settlement agreement that the U.S. Attorney's Office reached in August 2013 with Clear Span and its partners.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General (OIG), the FBI and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
Guilty Plea and Suspension
On Jan. 24, 2014, Williams pleaded guilty to a charge of falsifying engineering documents related to FHWA-funded highway construction projects between July 2008 and April 2012.
Williams admitted that on multiple occasions and without authorization, he forged or affixed the seal and signature of various Professional Engineers on bridge plans and transmitted the engineering documents to prime contractors on the FHWA-funded projects.
According to the guilty plea, Williams forged the engineers' seals by cutting and pasting, or "photo shopping" the P.E. certification seals onto new un-reviewed and unapproved deck form construction drawings.
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Matthew Williams forged approvals by five Professional Engineers without their knowledge on more than 75 projects, authorities said. Inspections showed no safety concerns with the projects, authorities said.
FHWA-funded contracts require P.E. approval to ensure both the safety of the construction workers during bridge construction and the integrity of the bridge designs.
500 Forgeries, 75 Projects
In all, Williams submitted more than 500 falsified documents on more than 75 federal and state funded highway projects in 13 states, authorities said.
Authorities did not identify the engineers whose names were used without their knowledge and did not identify the projects involved.
After its investigation, the FHWA concluded that there were no safety concerns surrounding the metal bridge deck form designs upon which Williams forged signatures.
On Jan. 29, the FHWA suspended and proposed the debarment of WIlliams and Clear Span.