Local News

Second contractor pleads guilty to supplying defective parts for NC bridges

Posted March 1, 2016 6:03 p.m. EST

— A highway contractor pleaded guilty Tuesday to a scheme to supply defective components to bridges in North Carolina, authorities said.

Santiago de la Torre, 45, of Joliet, Ill., pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to make false statements concerning highway projects and perjury. He will be sentenced later and faces up to 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

De la Torre's brother, Joel, pleaded guilty last year in the scheme.

The brothers ran Delgado Elastomeric Bearings Corp., which made slabs of rubber reinforced with multiple layers of steel and placed underneath bridges to absorb shock and sold them for use on bridges in North Carolina, authorities said. Defects were found in the elastomeric bridge bearings in October 2011, prompting an investigation.

The U.S. Department of Transportation determined that a teenager's name was forged on the North Carolina application to supply the bridge bearings to local contractors. The application listed the teen as Delgado's vice president, and his name also had been used on all certificates sent to North Carolina highway contractors certifying that the bearings met applicable state and federal regulations.

An inspection of Delgado's plant in Chicago found that it didn't have the required testing devices and machinery which would have revealed the defects in the bridge bearings, authorities said.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation has said that crews were able to repair the defective parts, and drivers were never at risk.