Bridge Engineer Impostor Fined
He avoided prison for his crimes, but a Pennsylvania contractor will have to muster up another $50,000 fine for forging approvals on hundreds of bridge and highway plans in 13 states, authorities say.
A federal judge in Pittsburgh, PA, imposed a $50,000 civil judgment Tuesday (Sept. 30) on Matthew Williams, former owner of Clear Span Construction Products LLC.
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.
Forgery and Photoshop
Matthews' fine came four weeks after he was sentenced to four months of house arrest and four years of probation for fraud related to Federal Highway Administration projects.
Williams admitted forging the seals and signatures of five unwitting Professional Engineers on more than 500 project documents from July 2008 to April 2012. The documents related to more than 75 federal- and state-funded highway projects across 13 states
Authorities said Williams cut and pasted or "Photoshopped" the P.E.'s certification seals onto new un-reviewed and unapproved deck form construction drawings.
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Matthew Williams forged approvals by five P.E.'s without their knowledge on more than 75 projects, authorities said. Inspections later showed no safety concerns with the projects, authorities said.
He then transmitted the documents to prime contractors on the projects.
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.
Guilty Plea and Suspension
Wlliams was charged with wire fraud in December 2013 and pleaded guilty Jan. 24. In addition to his house arrest, he was ordered to pay $29,600 in restitution to the five engineers.
In addition, federal prosecutors and Clear Span reached a $50,000 civil settlement agreement in August 2013.
On Jan. 29, the FHWA suspended and proposed the debarment of WIlliams and Clear Span.
Authorities did not identify either the engineers whose names were used or the projects involved.
After investigating, however, the FHWA concluded that there were no safety concerns surrounding the metal bridge deck form designs upon which Williams forged signatures.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General (OIG), the FBI and the FHWA.