A road company executive who became a major government witness in a federal investigation of possible bid-rigging in the Virginia highway construction industry was sentenced today to 60 days in prison.
Rufus E. Daltan, 49, a vice president of a subsidiary of REA Construction Co., is the first corporate official to be charged in the wide-ranging federal criminal antitrust investigation into the state's multimillion-dollar highway construction program.
Daltan pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge last April in which the government said he participated in a scheme with two other Virginia construction companies to submit intentionally high bids on a Richmond airport paving contract.
Dalton pleaded guilty as part of an arrangement with the government in which he agreed to provide government investigators with information about the airport project and the much broader government investigation of the state roads program.
Dalton's company, the Charlotte, N.C.-based REA, previously was fined a total of $500,000 after pleading guilty to three bid-rigging charges involving the Richmond airport project and two North Carolina road construction jobs. Last week, Central Contracting Co. and Ashland-warren, Inc., the two other companies accused of participating in the price-fixing scheme at the Richmond airport, were fined a total of $625,000.
In federal court today, prosecutor Diane R. Kilbourne said Dalton's cooperation with the government probe had been superb, but she asked that he receive a prison sentence to help deter other businessmen from engaging in bid-rigging.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert R. Merhige, Jr., in sentencing Dalton, said bid-rigging has "become a way of doing business" for some companies.
Merhige said Dalton's previously unblemished record made him a "credit to your community." But, the judge told the Norfolk resident, "I want the next person . . . called by a superior and asked to do something illegal to stop and think."
Two other top REA officials who pleaded guilty to similar bid-rigging charges in a North Carolina case were sentenced to prison terms of 60 and 120 days respectively.The antiturst violation carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
In the Richmond case, prosecutors said the collusive bidding scheme resulted in the airport receiving bids nearly $1 million more than the project engineer estimated.
An official with Ashland-Warren, the low bidder on the airport job told Dalton and a Central Contracting executive what inflated prices to include in their bids, ensuring that Ashland-Warren would get the contract, prosecutors said.