FHWA employee arrested for alleged scheme subcontract off books

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | Monday, July 28, 2014

Prosecutors say a high-ranking administrator with the Federal Highway Administration used his position to try and obtain federal grant money through a straw company.

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General, Lawrence F. Cullari Jr., assistant division administrator for the FHWA, New Jersey Division, was arrested in his office July 23. Cullari was charged in U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., with making false statements and mail fraud. He was later released after posting $100,000 bond.

According to court documents, Cullari has held his FHWA position since 2010 – a position that “holds power to influence the allocation of DOT funding,” a U.S. Justice Department news release says. Since 2006, Cullari has also operated a private consulting and engineering company called Dencore Consulting, which was owned by his former wife.

In 2006, Cullari allegedly asked his father-in-law to use his father-in-law’s company as a contractor to obtain work for Dencore Consulting from a Rutgers program. For more than seven years, Cullari prepared bids and work proposals for his father-in-law’s company to sign and submit to Rutgers on behalf of the straw company, mostly for FHWA-funded projects. Cullari’s father-in-law submitted reports to the universities that had been prepared by Cullari, and also submitted and collected on invoices – usually keeping about $300 each time for himself. He wrote a check to Dencore Consulting for the balance of the payment.

Though Dencore Consulting was paid more than $130,000 between 2009 and 2013, Cullari allegedly filed false Confidential Financial Disclosure Reports stating he earned no outside income.

Cullari served as a board member on multiple advisory boards at Rutgers, including the CAIT Advisory Board, the Research Advisory Board, the Technology Transfer Advisory Board, and the Transportation Safety Resource Center Advisory Board.

Cullari is also accused of falsifying federal financial disclosure documents – including specifically hiding his outside employment and other monetary interests. He faces a maximum penalty for wire fraud of 20 years in prison, and five years for each of the five false statement charges. Each charge also carries a maximum penalty of $250,000.

The investigation is conducted by the DOT Office of Inspector General and with criminal investigators from the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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