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Wed April 16, 2014
Hartford Contractor Identified in Federal Construction Probe
Manafort Brothers, Inc. will pay $2.4 million in fines for alleged fraud tied to a 2007 road project. A Hartford-based firm has also now been identified at the center of the federal investigation.
The fines are tied to abuse of U.S. Department of Transportation's "disadvantaged business enterprise" program, which aims to increase participation for historically disadvantaged businesses: firms owned by women and minorities.
It works like this: on certain transportation projects, a contractor must subcontract a portion of its work to a DBE in order to qualify for federal funding. Last week, federal prosecutors announced a $2.4 million settlement with Manafort.
In it, prosecutors alleged the company lied about $3,064,372 in work on a state highway relocation project. That work was supposed to be done by a DBE only identified as “Company 1.” But the feds said Company 1 didn’t do that work. Instead, they alleged Company 1 simply acted as a pass-through. Manafort then hired other companies to do that work.
Neither prosecutors nor state transportation officials would identify Company 1. State bidding documents obtained by WNPR confirm that the company is JFC Construction, LLC, a Hartford-based firm.
JFC declined to comment for this story, but according to the federal government, Manafort claimed JFC would provide steel road components and construct a retaining wall. Prosecutors alleged Manafort believed and knew JFC would not do that work, arranging to satisfy federal minority contracting requirements on paper while subcontracting the work elsewhere.
In a statement, Manafort disputed that allegation, but acknowledged it needs to "improve its DBE compliance process." To that end, the company said they've appointed a full-time employee to oversee DBE compliance.