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No jail time for two convicted in Big Dig concrete case

They get home confinement, probation,

By J.M. Lawrence
Globe Correspondent / May 27, 2010

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Two former managers for Aggregate Industries NE Inc. who were convicted of supplying substandard concrete to Boston’s Big Dig highway project have avoided jail terms.

US District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns on Tuesday rejected federal prosecutors’ call for prison terms of at least seven years for the men. Instead, he sentenced Robert Prosperi, 64, of Lynnfield, and Gregory A. Stevenson, 53, of Furlong, Pa., to six months of home confinement, probation, and 1,000 hours of community service.

The pair were convicted of 135 felony counts including conspiracy to commit highway project fraud and mail fraud; conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims; and making false statements in connection with highway projects and mail fraud.

“It’s not clear to me why these defendants were plucked out to be the poster children’’ for wrongdoing, Stearns said. He found that the men did not profit personally from the scheme.

Assistant US Attorney Fred M. Wyshak Jr. told the court the defendants deserved jail for a scheme that “will ultimately jeopardize the ultimate viability of these tunnels,’’ he said. “By the time we see the consequences of this harm, you or I probably won’t be here 20, 30, 40, or 50 years down the road.’’

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Prosperi and Stevenson faced seven to nine years behind bars based on the millions of dollars lost by the government from the conspiracy. Stearns used his power to grant what is known as a “downward departure’’ from those guidelines after defense attorneys Peter Parker and Bruce Singal argued for leniency.

“The government is disappointed with the sentences in this case, and while it respects the court in this matter, the government does not believe the sentences reflect the seriousness of the offense or serve as a deterrent to others who might engage in similar conduct on the public works projects in our Commonwealth,’’ US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said.

The men were convicted in August along with two other former Aggregate workers, John J. Farrar of Canterbury, Conn., and Marc Blais of Lynn. Two other workers pleaded guilty to the fraud. Blais and Farrar are scheduled to be sentenced today.

Workers had codes to let each other know when inspectors were at the company and falsified records claiming concrete was new when it was more than 90 minutes old and not usable for government contracts, prosecutors said.

“I expect to be very criticized,’’ the judge said. Stearns said the public may associate the case with the 2006 fatal ceiling collapse of the Ted Williams Tunnel in which Milena Del Valle, a 38-year-old mother from Jamaica Plain, was killed.

Authorities, however, blamed New York epoxy vendor Powers Fasteners Inc. for the ceiling collapse. The company avoided manslaughter charges and paid a $16 million settlement in 2008.

Prosecutors argued Prosperi and Stevenson had yet to take full responsibility for their scheme and were still claiming that use of old and watered down concrete was standard industry practice in some situations.

Out of 30,000 loads of substandard concrete at Aggregate in Saugus from 1999 to 2004, 16,000 truckloads were reused in other projects, including the Big Dig.

J.M. Lawrence can be reached at jmlawrence@mac.com.

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