Manufacturer of Defective North Carolina Bridge Parts Arrested in Chicago Area Following Indictment
RALEIGH—United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker announced that SANTIAGO DE LA TORRE, 45, of Joliet, Illinois, has been charged by a federal grand jury in a 17-count indictment with Making False Statements Concerning Highway Projects and Aiding and Abetting; Aggravated Identity Theft and Aiding and Abetting; Conspiracy to Make False Statements Concerning Highway Projects; and Perjury. Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested DE LA TORRE in the Chicago area on October 21, 2015.
The indictment alleges that SANTIAGO DE LA TORRE and his brother, Joel De La Torre, residents of Illinois, opened a business called Delgado Elastomeric Bearings Corporation (DEBC). Through DEBC, the defendant and his brother manufactured and sold elastomeric bridge bearings, which are effectively shock absorbers for bridges. The defendant and his brother sold the bearings for use by multiple North Carolina highway contractors on numerous bridges in the state.
The indictment alleges that between 2009 and October of 2011, SANTIAGO DE LA TORRE and Joel De La Torre carried out a scheme to manufacture and sell bridge bearings on federal and state highway contracts in North Carolina and forged an application with the State of North Carolina to be able to supply bridge bearings on highway projects within the state.
The indictment further alleges that with each shipment of bridge bearings, SANTIAGO DE LA TORREand his brother falsified various documents concerning the quality and testing of the bridge bearings. The indictment alleges that the certifications were false and fraudulent for various reasons, including the fact that SANTIAGO DE LA TORRE and Joel De La Torre fabricated the test results listed in the certifications.
The indictment further alleges that federal and state construction contractors received and relied upon the false and fraudulent certifications. According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, there is no immediate safety concern arising from the defective bearings. Nevertheless, the bearings will require replacement at a later date. Costs associated with the replacement of the bearings are expected to exceed $5 Million due to the difficulty in removing the bearings from beneath existing structures, engineering costs, and traffic control.
If convicted, the maximum punishment for Making False Statements Concerning Highway Projects, Conspiracy to Make False Statements, and Perjury is up to five years in prison for each count, a $250,000.00 fine for each count, and three years of supervised release. Conviction for Aggravated Identity Theft carries a penalty of not less than, nor more than two years’ imprisonment consecutive to any other sentence imposed, $250,000.00 fine and one year of supervised release.
An indictment is an allegation of a crime. The defendant is presumed under the law to be innocent until proven guilty. The defendant’s brother, Joel De La Torre, previously pleaded guilty on a related charge on April 16, 2015.
The investigation of this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Department of Transportation, Office of the Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorney William M. Gilmore represents the United States.