August 30, 2006

U.S. charges man with fraud for work on “Big Dig”

BOSTON (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors in Boston on
Wednesday said they had charged an electrical contractor who
had worked on the city's troubled "Big Dig" tunnel contract
with overbilling for work on the project.

The indictment is the first handed down since Massachusetts
Gov. Mitt Romney, a 2008 Republican presidential hopeful,
ordered a "stem to stern" review of the $15 billion roadway,
America's costliest public works project, following a July 10
ceiling collapse that killed a woman.

The investigation into that collapse has focused on a
system of bolts used to secure three-ton ceiling panels in
sections of the 7.8 mile tunnel system. The man charged on
Wednesday faced claims he had overbilled for work by
electricians in 2003 through 2005.

U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said that Stephen Bowers,
54, of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, faced charges including
conspiracy to defraud the United States, submitting false
claims and conspiracy to commit fraud on a federal highway
project. In a statement, Sullivan said that Bowers overbilled
by more than $80,000 for work done by apprentice electricians,
claiming the higher pay rate reserved for journeymen.

Bowers could not be reached for immediate comment.

"Today's indictment demonstrates our commitment to
intensively investigate the Big Dig and prosecute illegal
conduct when we find it," Sullivan said in a statement.

Romney, who this month took formal control of the "Big
Dig," which has faced delays, cost overruns and claims of
shoddy workmanship, named an engineering firm to conduct a
90-day review of problems in the tunnel.

Portions of the Big Dig tunnels, which connect Boston with
its airport, have been closed since the July collapse, sending
tens of thousands of cars onto Boston's narrow, crowded