TRENTON – Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that a Burlington County man was sentenced to jail today for falsifying bids to win four contracts worth approximately $4.6 million from the New Jersey Department of Transportation for engineering services related to bridge painting and construction projects.
Chetan Shah, 62, of Mount Laurel, N.J., was sentenced today to 364 days in the county jail and three years of probation by Superior Court Judge Timothy P. Lydon in Mercer County. The judge suspended the jail sentence on the condition that Shah meets the conditions of his probation. Shah and his company, S&R Engineers (S&R) each pleaded guilty on Aug. 2 to a charge of third-degree tampering with public records or information. Under their plea agreements, Shah and S&R were jointly and severally liable for payment of $250,000, representing the estimated profits or gains from their illegal conduct. Shah paid the required sum prior to sentencing. In addition, Shah and S&R are barred for five years from doing business, either personally or through any business entity in which they have an ownership interest of 5 percent or more, with any public agency or government in New Jersey.
Deputy Attorney General Brian Uzdavinis prosecuted Shah and S&R and handled the sentencing for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. The contract fraud was initially investigated by the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Office of Inspector General, which referred the case to the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau for criminal investigation.
In pleading guilty, Shah admitted that from 2011 through 2016, he falsified bids submitted to the NJDOT for four contracts worth approximately $4.6 million that were awarded to his company for engineering services related to bridge painting and construction projects. He was awarded a fifth contract worth $1.5 million as a result of bid misrepresentations, but that contract was put on hold as a result of this investigation. In connection with the bids, Shah grossly exaggerated the experience and qualifications of multiple individuals who were employed or purportedly were employed by S&R, which caused the bids to be scored high enough to win the contracts. The bids would not even have been considered if Shah had been honest about the credentials of his employees.
For example, Shah represented that one employee had an associate’s degree in engineering and had performed professional services on engineering jobs for various agencies dating back to 1999. In reality, the man did not graduate from high school until 2006 and had no college degree or relevant experience on engineering projects.
“Contractors like Shah who lie when bidding on government contracts cheat New Jersey taxpayers and potentially jeopardize the quality of work performed on critical infrastructure projects,” said Attorney General Porrino. “This case sends a message that we will not hesitate to file criminal charges against dishonest contractors.”
“We will continue to work with the DOT to safeguard the integrity of government contracting and aggressively prosecute those who break the law to win contracts,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We urge anyone who has information about fraud in government contracting to contact us confidentially at 866-TIPS-4CJ.”
“The New Jersey Department of Transportation demands our contractors have the necessary skills and ability to do the critical work of keeping the state’s highways and bridges in a state of good repair,” said Commissioner Richard T. Hammer of the New Jersey Department of Transportation. “We have zero tolerance for contractors who abuse the public trust for their own benefit and potentially endanger those who rely on our transportation infrastructure every day.”
Attorney General Porrino commended the attorneys, detectives and investigators who handled the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau and the NJDOT Office of Inspector General.
Edward J. Plaza, Esq., Weir & Plaza, LLC, Little Silver, N.J.
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