Road Worrier Blog

Illinois man pleads guilty on faulty bridge parts

An Illinois man pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to conspiracy and perjury in connection to charges that he and his brother manufactured defective bearings that were installed on highway bridges in North Carolina between 2009 and 2011.

Santiago De La Torre of Joliet, Ill., faces a possible sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000 for his admission of guilt in the case. His brother, Joel De La Torre, pleaded guilty last year to aggravated identity theft and making false statements concerning highway projects.

The two men sold 1,270 faulty elastomeric bridge bearings – slabs of rubber and steel that work as shock absorbers under bridges – to highway contractors that installed them on bridges built for the N.C. Department of Transportation. Court filings said the De La Torres guaranteed their work with falsified documents.

DOT officials have said the defective parts might cause maintenance problems in the future but did not threaten public safety. The U.S. attorney’s office said the parts eventually would have to be replaced at an estimated cost of $5 million.

Bruce Siceloff: 919-829-4527, @Road_Worrier