- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2007

A former top D.C. road-paving executive sentenced to more three years in prison in a bribery scam has lost an appeal challenging his sentencing.

In a 22-page opinion Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the 37-month sentence given Antonio C. Bras, the highest-ranking official sent to prison in an FBI investigation of corruption in the District’s road-paving industry.

Bras played a key role in the scam in which D.C. road inspectors and engineers took bribes for signing off on phantom shipments of asphalt that inflated the amount delivered to D.C. road-paving sites.

Bras, 63, a former asphalt superintendent at Fort Myer Paving Corp., the city’s largest road paver, appealed his 37-month sentence on the grounds U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly committed a series of errors during his 2005 sentencing.

Among the arguments by Bras’ attorney, Joseph J. Aronica, was his client’s sentence wasn’t fair because others sentenced in the conspiracy, including former D.C. employees, received only probation.

But U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Merrick B. Garland in his opinion Friday wrote Bras’ co-conspirators “provided substantial assistance in the investigation; while Bras did not.”

The judge also said there was no basis for “second-guessing” Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s finding during Bras’ sentencing that he had “a leadership role” in the scam.

In addition, Bras argued for a lesser sentence on the grounds a predecessor at the company, who has since died, was the actual leader.

Prosecutors said during Bras’ sentencing that they wanted their investigation, dubbed “Operation Hot Mix,” to reach higher into Fort Myer’s corporate structure. But Bras, they said, would not cooperate.

Fort Myer officials have said they knew nothing of the bribery scheme, blaming the actions of “rogue employees” of a subsidiary company. The company agreed to a $900,000 settlement with prosecutors in 2003, including $300,000 in restitution.

The federal investigation focused on Federal Highway Administration contracts in the District totaling more than $32 million during the mid- and late 1990s. As a result, 12 persons, including Bras, were sentenced.

Bras, who pleaded guilty midway through his 2003 trial, is expected to be released in October 2008 from the medium-security Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Md.

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