Concrete Supplier to Pay $50 Million to Settle Big Dig Case

July 30, 2007

A concrete supplier for Boston’s Big Dig tunnel has agreed to pay a $50 million settlement to end civil and criminal investigations into more than 5,000 truckloads of substandard concrete it delivered to the massive highway project, state and federal authorities announced last Friday.

Aggregate Industries NE Inc., the largest asphalt and concrete supply company in New England, also agreed to plead guilty to a criminal charge of conspiracy to defraud the federal government.

Six employees of Aggregate, which supplied concrete used in tunnels and roadways in the Big Dig project, were indicted last year on federal charges that they falsified records to hide the substandard quality of concrete.

The company itself was not charged, but prosecutors at the time said their investigations were continuing.

The indictment charged the men with recycling concrete that was too old or already rejected by inspectors and in some cases double-billing for the loads. The company was paid $105 million for 135,000 truckloads of concrete, and at least 5,000 did not meet specifications, according to the indictment.

The settlement will end the case against Aggregate, which is owned by Holcim, a concrete company based in Switzerland. The six employees still await trials on charges of conspiracy to defraud the government, making false statements and mail fraud.

Under the plea agreement, Aggregate will pay $42 million to settle the civil investigation and $8 million in criminal fines.

The company will pay $27 million for a fund that will be used to pay for future maintenance and repair costs on the project. The other $15 million will be divided by the state and federal government.

Under the agreement, Aggregate also will sell its largest asphalt plant in Boston and pay for an independent monitor who will track its compliance with state and federal laws and regulations. The company also agreed to provide up to $75 million in insurance coverage for potential structural maintenance costs and pay $500,000 to state highway officials to conduct regular checks on locations where they suspect substandard concrete was poured.

The agreement allows Aggregate to avoid debarment by the Federal Highway Administration, which will allow the company to continue to receive federal highway contracts.

“Today’s effort is an extremely good result,” state Attorney General Martha Coakley said.

Company officials planned a press conference later Friday afternoon.

The case was investigated by state and federal officials after a whistleblower who works on the Big Dig filed a lawsuit in 2005.

Meanwhile, state and federal prosecutors were determining whether to file criminal charges against or settle with various Big Dig contractors in the tunnel ceiling collapse in July 2006 that killed a Boston woman.

Coakley would not comment when asked if the settlement with Aggregate announced Friday would exempt the company from any liability in that case.

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