- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 1, 2005

The D.C. Office of the Attorney General says it is negotiating with the federal government over how much money the District will receive as a result of the settlement of a federal probe into corruption in the city’s road paving industry.

The investigation has found that paving company officials bribed D.C. highway inspectors to certify phantom shipments of asphalt for street-paving jobs.

Antonio C. Bras, a former asphalt superintendent for D.C.-based Fort Myer Construction Corp., received a three-year prison sentence last month. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy and highway fraud charges midway through his trial in 2003.

Bras was the highest-ranking official at Fort Myer charged in the case.

Fort Myer struck a $900,000 settlement with prosecutors in 2003, including $300,000 in restitution.

Traci Hughes, spokeswoman for the D.C. Office of the Attorney General, said yesterday the District is negotiating with federal officials to see how much of the $300,000 restitution will be returned to the city.

“The District has not filed any kind of special action, but we’re working to recover the city’s portion of the restitution payment,” she said. “We’re in negotiations with the federal officials.”

The federal investigation focused on Federal Highway Administration contracts in the District totaling more than $32 million. As a result, 12 persons, including Bras, were sentenced.

The FBI and the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Transportation examined thousands of financial transactions between the District and paving companies during the mid- and late 1990s.

Prosecutors said they were not able to determine whether the scandal reached into more powerful circles because Bras would not cooperate.

“This investigation could have potentially gone further,” Assistant U.S. District Attorney Steven J. Durham said at Bras’ sentencing. “It could have potentially gone higher up.”

Fort Myer officials declined to respond to Mr. Durham’s comments, referring instead to legal documents filed on the company’s behalf indicating that owners of Fort Myer knew nothing about the fraud.

The company has blamed “rogue employees” of a subsidiary company.

Joseph J. Aronica, an attorney for Bras, 62, argued last month that his client deserved community service. He said Bras was a “middle man” who played only a limited role in the scam, and blamed a former Fort Myer employee who has since died.

Fort Myer has resumed contracting with the District after being debarred over the scandal. It ranked among the top five local companies registered in the city’s set-aside contracting program last year, taking in more than $20 million, city contracting records show.

Officials at two other road-paving firms, Granja Inc. and C&F; Construction, also have pleaded guilty in the case.

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