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Company Investigated by WRAL to Pay Over $1 Million for Fraud

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Pizzagolli Construction has settled with whistleblowers who alleged fraud.
FORT BRAGG — A construction company building newbarracks at Fort Bragg has agreed to pay more than $1 million tosettle fraud charges. Friday's announcement comes almost two years after aWRAL investigation of shoddy work on the $54 million project.

WRAL Investigative ReporterStuart Watsonfirst broke the storyafter talking to two whistleblowers who were frustrated that theArmy Corps of Engineers wouldn't listen to their complaints.

They worked for Pizzagalli Construction, but the contractor fired themafter they complained of shoddy work. Now, the U.S. Attorney has settled acivil suit and the contractor has agreed to pay the pair hundreds ofthousands of dollars.

Originally, taxpayers paid for the new barracks at Fort Bragg. Thewhistleblowers decided taxpayers were not getting their money's worth.They said steel bars designed to hold concrete block in place were frequentlymissing.

Quality Control Inspector Brenda Strayer told the Army Corps ofEngineers, which was supervising the project, then told WRAL. After Watson raised questions, the Corps punched holes in the block to check for thebars. Often, there were none.

Foreman Wayne Field summed up his reaction in one word -- amazement.

Pizzagalli Construction has not admitted it did anything wrong, but theU.S. Attorney's office contends in a news release that "Pizzagallifailed to report substantial construction defects, and in some cases engagedin a cover-up to hide the problems..." from the Corps.

Pizzagalli fired Strayer. She spent the holiday season two years agojobless. Now she and Fields are eligible for as much as a quarter of the$1 million settlement.

Troops are scheduled to move in to the new barracks later this month.The U.S. Attorney's office says Pizzagalli fixed the defects and isexpected to absorb the cost of those repairs. Pizzagalli claims it onlysettled this case to clear the way in order to pursue almost $21 millionmore from the government. The company says faulty plans, changes anddelays costitmoney.

The Army Corps of Engineers threatened to bar Pizzagalli from futuregovernment work, but a Corps spokesman says that hasn't happened.This year an Engineering trade magazineENGhonored Strayer as one of its heroes.

Photographer:Richard Adkins

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