Painting Firms Charged in Pass-Through Scheme
Two bridge-painting firms, along with two of their employees, are facing charges in relation to an alleged pass-through scheme that federal investigators say took place during two Philadelphia projects nearly a decade ago.
Liberty Maintenance Inc. (Youngstown, Ohio) and Alpha Painting & Construction Inc. (Baltimore) were both indicted in the U.S District Court in Philadelphia earlier this month, along with Stamatios Kouisis (who served as a project manager for Alpha on the projects in question) and Emmanouel Frangos (one of the owners of Liberty). The companies and the individuals face charges including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, false statements and forfeiture.
Court documents indicate that Francos was released on his own recognizance.
The charges stem from the use of Markias Inc., then qualified as a disadvantaged business enterprise, on the recoating of the GIrard Point Bridge and the painting of structural steel on the Amtrak 30th Street Station, contracts awarded to a joint venture of Alpha and Liberty in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of the Inspector General alleges that Liberty and Alpha employed Markias as a subcontractor on the projects, taking advantage of DBE credit offered by PennDOT on the projects. The OIG alleges that materials ordered for out-of-state projects and had the invoices delivered to Markias, then presented Markias as having worked as a supplier of materials for the two Philadelphia projects. Markias was invoiced for materials used on other projects, including Boston's Tobin Bridge and the U.S.-190 Mississippi River Bridge in Baton Rouge, according to the criminal complaint.
Markias owner Joyce Abrams pleaded guilty to conspiracy in 2016 and was suspended from federal contracting.
Past Project Problems
The Girard Point project has been a point of contention in the past for the Federal Highway Administration and Liberty-Alpha; the FWHA suspended the joint venture in 2014 over charges related to the employment of an undocumented worker on the project and the disturbance of a protected peregrine falcon at the jobsite. The JV was later cleared by a federal jury.