WASHINGTON -- Foreign and US companies will pay the government $24.75 million to settle allegations they inflated claims on Amtrak projects to electrify part of the Northeast Corridor, the Justice Department said yesterday.
The engineering and construction companies were accused of overcharging Amtrak for the installation of an overhead system to deliver electricity to locomotives between New Haven and Boston.
''This settlement sends a clear message that the Justice Department will investigate and resolve financial fraud perpetrated by contractors of federal grantees," said Peter Keisler, assistant attorney general.
The companies included Balfour Beatty Construction based in London -- its primary US office is in Atlanta; Massachusetts Electric Construction Co. in Boston; and BBC-MEC, the two companies' joint venture. Also involved were J.F. White Contracting Co. in Boston and Northeast Corridor Foundations, a joint venture between J.F. White and BBC-MEC.
Former Balfour Beatty employee Ian Cartwright filed the original lawsuit under the whistle-blower provision of the False Claims Act and will receive $3.89 million of the total settlement, the Justice Department said.
The case was settled after a lengthy investigation by the Justice Department, along with the FBI and Amtrak's Office of Inspector General.
Amtrak declined to comment.
In a statement, Balfour called the settlement amicable and said the company, along with the others involved, denied any wrongdoing.