Former FHWA official suspended after fraud case

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 5/19/2015

A Federal Highway Administration assistant division administrator in New Jersey has been suspended from participating in government-funded projects after pleading guilty to mail fraud, according to the Office of Inspector General.

According to court documents, Assistant Division Administrator Lawrence Cullari Jr., used his father-in-law’s company as a “straw” subcontractor while taking money for his and his ex-wife’s consulting company, Dencore Consulting. Cullari was ineligible for such work due to his association with FHWA.

Since Cullari held a high position within the administration, he was obligated to file Confidential Financial Disclosure Reports. Disclosure Reports are put in place to avoid conflicts of interest with public officials. Court documents reveal that Cullari filed five false statements from 2010 to 2014 in order to cover up money made with Dencore Consulting from FHWA-funded contracts.

More than $130,000 was paid to Dencore Consulting in work related to Cullari’s father-in-law’s business, referred to as “Company #1” in the U.S. District Court criminal complaint. More than $56,000 was transferred from Dencore’s bank account to Cullari’s personal bank account. This source of income was not reported in the Disclosure Reports.

Additionally, Cullari was a member of several advisory boards at Rutgers CAIT, according to court documents. Rutgers CAIT contracted the transportation-related work to Company No. 1, which Cullari profited off of via Dencore Consulting. Cullari failed to mention his relationship with Rutgers CAIT in his Disclosure Reports.

On Jan. 29, 2014, Cullari told OIG special agents that Dencore Consulting was a landscaping company and did not do transportation-related work. He also denied membership in Rutgers CAIT boards in the same interview. The next day, Cullari sent an email to Rutgers CAIT asking that his name be removed from all advisory boards.

From 2010 to August 2013, Cullari was the Assistant Division Administrator for the New Jersey Division of FHWA, second only to the acting division administrator. Cullari became Acting Division Administrator, the top position in the New Jersey Division, from August 2013 through October 2013. He resigned from that position in July 2014, the same month the criminal complaint was filed.

Cullari was initially charged with five counts of false statements pertaining to the Disclosure Reports and one count of mail fraud. On March 17, 2015, Cullari pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud as part of a plea bargain. Sentencing is to be held on July 1.

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