A contractor has been sentenced to more than six years in prison and ordered to pay close to $1 million in restitution for his part in a bid-rigging and bribery scheme involving the California Department of Transportation.
Construction company owner Bill R. Miller pleaded guilty November 14 to a scheme that illegally won more than $8 million worth of Caltrans improvement and repair contracts for bridge toll buildings and highway maintenance facilities. He recruited others to submit sham bids on Caltrans contracts, so he or other conspirators would win the contracts, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Two others have also pleaded guilty in the case: contractor and former Miller business partner William D. Opp and Choon Foo “Keith” Yong, former Caltrans senior transportation engineer in the Maintenance and Operations Division. Miller is the first to be sentenced.
Bid-rigging and bribery conspiracy
The scheme began in 2015 when Yong was approached by a Caltrans employee about making extra money by bid rigging, according to court records. The employee then introduced Yong, who served as a Caltrans contract manager, to Miller.
Miller and Yong worked out an agreement in which Yong would give Miller advance notice of contract work on toll building and maintenance facility work. The contracts were between $3,999 and $314,000, requiring at least two bidders. The lowest bidder would win the contract. Yong was responsible for listing companies to send bid invitations to and submitting those to Caltrans.
Miller agreed to pay Yong 10% of the contract awards as a bribe. The employee who introduced Miller to Yong would help Yong set up the bid invitation lists. In exchange, Yong paid the employee $500 a month.
Yong would then ask Miller which companies he wanted to receive invitations to bid on a project. Miller would list other companies that would submit inflated, sham bids, and his company or one in on the conspiracy would win the contract with the low bid.
Yong also would send no-bid, emergency work Miller’s way, which Miller would submit inflated prices for.
Opp at first worked for Miler’s company and soon became a partner in the scheme, in which he and Miller would split the proceeds. Opp later set up a sham company with his wife at the helm. Opp’s company would submit sham bids for contracts that Miller would win.
As part of his bribes, Yong got $130,000 worth of remodeling work done on his house by Miller’s company. He also received cash payments in 2018 ranging from $25,000 to $96,000. And he got some wine and furniture in the scheme.
Yong worked for Caltrans from 1990 to 2019.
Sentence handed down
Miller was sentenced April 17 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California in Sacramento to 78 months in prison and ordered to pay $984,699.53 in restitution.
“This sentence sends a strong message that criminals who corrupt the competitive bidding process will face stern consequences,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “Protecting infrastructure spending and taxpayer dollars remains a top priority for the Antitrust Division and our Procurement Collusion Strike Force partners.”
The case was part of a joint investigation by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California and the FBI Sacramento Field Office as part of the Justice Department’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF).