Owner Sentenced in Bridge Payroll Scheme
The owner of a Pennsylvania bridge-painting firm has been sentenced to probation and a monetary fine in relation to a payroll scheme on a federally funded bridge project in Philadelphia.
Maria Savakis, of Merritt Island, Florida, pleaded guilty earlier this year to theft from a health care program, and was sentenced July 18 to two years of probation and $2,600 in fines. Savakis was owner of New Castle, Pennsylvania-based Hercules Painting. The charges relate to the 2011 rehabilitation of the George C. Platt Memorial Bridge, in Philadelphia, a $42.7 million job carried out by a joint venture of Hercules and the Vimas Painting Company, of Lowellville, Ohio.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General, Savakis allegedly devised a scheme in which employees on the Platt Bridge job were paid via two separate payrolls, only one of which was reported on certified payrolls at the prevailing wage required in the contract. Employees were paid their remaining hours at a lower rate on the second, unreported payroll.
The DOT says the result of the scheme was that the joint venture kept funds that should by law have been deposited in the Welfare Fund of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades’ District Council No. 21.
According to investigators, the joint venture kept a total of $61,689 that should have gone to the union fund.
The DOT suspended Hercules Painting from federal contracts and proposed the company’s debarment in May, and at the time, a representative of the company told PaintSquare Daily News it was appealing the decision. Online government records indicate that the suspension still stands, with proceedings pending.