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Late Friday, the Department of Justice announced its first charges under the Procurement Collusion Strike Force. A federal grand jury seated in the Eastern District of North Carolina returned a six-count indictment against Ohio-based Contech Engineered Solutions LLC and its former executive for their involvement in a decade-long conspiracy to rig bids for North Carolina Department of Transportation contracts. The contracts were funded by both the U.S. government and the state of North Carolina, and involved aluminum drainage structure projects adjacent to roads, bridges, and overpasses.

The Raleigh-based executive charged in the indictment was the employee responsible for supervising the preparation and submission of bids in response to the relevant NC DOT opportunities. The indictment alleges that, in advance of submitting bids on behalf of his employer, the executive contacted – or directed his subordinate to contact – employees at the co-conspirator, requested the co-conspirator’s bid pricing, and then used that information to finalize bids on behalf of Contech, in violation of the Sherman Act. In addition to the antitrust counts, the defendants were also charged with mail and wire fraud related to knowingly submitting fraudulent statements that their proposals had been submitted “competitively and without collusion.”

Notably, the Eastern District of North Carolina is not one of the PCSF’s partner districts, suggesting that the reach of the PCSF has extended farther than initially expected. Underscoring the mission of the PCSF and the scrutiny of public procurements, the U.S. Attorney for the district remarked, “Here, the defendants are accused of having conspired to violate those laws and to deprive the people of North Carolina of both the best service and the best pricing. Prosecution of these types of cases is critical to ensuring fairness and integrity in our public contract bidding system.”

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Photo of Daniel Zelenko Daniel Zelenko

Daniel L. Zelenko is a partner in the New York office of Crowell & Moring and serves as co-chair of the firm’s nationally recognized White Collar & Regulatory Enforcement Group. Dan is a former federal prosecutor and senior enforcement lawyer at the U.S.

Daniel L. Zelenko is a partner in the New York office of Crowell & Moring and serves as co-chair of the firm’s nationally recognized White Collar & Regulatory Enforcement Group. Dan is a former federal prosecutor and senior enforcement lawyer at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). He has been recognized as a leader in the white collar and regulatory enforcement bar by Chambers USA since 2016 and is held in high regard for his U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and SEC experience and his antitrust and securities enforcement experience. Chambers USA described Dan as a “tremendous talent” who “tries cases really impressively before the government,” noting that he “is a very effective advocate who sees the whole picture,” is “thoroughly knowledgeable about the legal and regulatory landscape,” and that “he knows his way around the street, and knows how to work with people in difficult situations.” Dan has been quoted as a leading authority on white collar defense and government investigations in numerous media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Bloomberg and Reuters and has appeared on CNN.

Photo of Alexis DeBernardis Alexis DeBernardis

Alexis Victoria DeBernardis is a counsel in the Washington, D.C. office. She is a member of the Antitrust & Competition Group, where her practice focuses on representing corporate clients in a wide range of antitrust issues, including competitor collaborations, mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures…

Alexis Victoria DeBernardis is a counsel in the Washington, D.C. office. She is a member of the Antitrust & Competition Group, where her practice focuses on representing corporate clients in a wide range of antitrust issues, including competitor collaborations, mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures, and issues related to the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act. Her experience covers several industries, in particular, healthcare providers and payors, aerospace and defense, telecommunications, and financial services.