Ashland-Warren Inc., an Atlanta-based construction firm, has agreed to pay $1.5 million in fines for its role in three separate cases of bid-rigging with other companies.

A fine of $500,000 was imposed immediately by U.S. District Judge Robert R. Merhige Jr. after Ashland-Warren changed its plea from innocent to guilty in a case involving a $2.3 million runaway paving contract at Richmond's Byrd International Airport.

The judge levied a $125,000 fine on Central Contracting Co. of Richmond after it, too, switched to a guilty plea in the airport case.

A third company, Rea Construction Co. of Charlotte, N.C., pleaded guilty and was fined $150,000 by Merhige on June 5 in the same case.

In a plea bargin negotiated with the Justice Department, Ashland-Warren also agreed to plead guilty when two additional charges are filed alleging bid-rigging on highway contracts in the Richmond and Norfolk districts.

The company, a subsidary of Ashland Oil Inc., agreed to a fine of $500,000 on each of those two counts for total fines of $1.5 million on the three charges.

Part of the plea bargin was that Ashland-Warren would not be prosecuted on any additional charges.