A Pennsylvania federal judge has ruled that the owner of a painting company that has been cited multiple times for workplace safety violations cannot avoid charges that he knowingly discharged pollutants into the Susquehanna River during a $42 million bridge rehabilitation project.

U.S. District Judge Sylvia H. Rambo refused to dismiss the Clean Water Act (CWA) charges against Andrew Manganas of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, and his company, Panthera Painting Inc. Judge Rambo said the 2016 indictment sufficiently laid out the charges that they knowingly allowed pollutants to enter the Susquehanna River, including abrasive paint blasting materials, waste paint and metal, rather than collecting them for recycling or hazardous waste disposal, during and related to their work on the George Wade Bridge.

Manganas and Panthera were indicted in July 2016 on three CWA charges, one count of embezzlement, 21 counts of providing false statements to the U.S. government and 21 counts of wire fraud for the money paid by the government as a result of those claims, according to the indictment. The illegal acts allegedly occurred between 2011 and 2013 while Panthera was working to rehabilitate the bridge over the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Judge Rambo said:

The indictment clearly identifies the statute defendants are charged with violating, provides the elements of the offense by tracking the statutory language, alleges that defendants acted ‘knowingly,’ and specifies a time period for each CWA count. Nonetheless, defendants urge the court to require that the government allege mens rea for each statutory element of the CWA in the indictment.

Judge Rambo explained that whether “knowingly” applies to each element or only specific elements of Section 1319(c)(2) of the CWA is a question to be determined at a later juncture, not in a pretrial motion to dismiss.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, in September 2009, awarded a contract for rehabilitation work on the George Wade Bridge to J.D. Eckman Inc. Federal aid programs were to reimburse 90 percent of the $42 million cost. A month later, Panthera was awarded a $9.9 million subcontract by Eckman that covered cleaning, resurfacing and painting the bridge’s structural steel, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The federal oversight and funding of the contract required each contractor and subcontractor to submit certified payroll reports for every worker and every pay period to prove that the appropriate federally established wage was being paid to each worker.

However, Manganas and his company allegedly embezzled money from benefit and pension plans using a scheme in which workers got two checks — one for regular hours worked and a separate “per diem” check that was allegedly for overtime hours, but didn’t include required contributions to the workers’ union welfare benefit and individual employee pension plans. The government said about $400,000 was embezzled from these plans between 2011 and 2013.

The company then sent false certified payroll reports for workers to the Federal Highway Administration, which caused the agency to wire payments from the Federal Highway Trust Fund to Pennsylvania, including payments for work performed by Manganas and his company, the government said. Workers allegedly lost a total of about $209,000 as a result of the Defendants’ failure to pay appropriate wages, according to the DOJ. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed nearly $460,000 in fines against Panthera for exposing workers to lead and other safety and health hazards while working on bridges. In 2000, OSHA fined the company after a mechanical lift fell and killed a worker.

The U.S. is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney James T. Clancy and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin Harrell. The case is U.S. v. Andrew Manganas and Panthera Painting Inc., (case number 1:16-cr-00209) in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Source: Law360.com

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