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Contractor on I-81 bridge project pleads guilty on pollution, fraud, embezzlement charges

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A painting contractor pleaded guilty this week in federal court to illegally dumping pollutants into the Susquehanna River and stealing money from worker benefit plans and unions during a bridge project on Interstate 81 in Central Pennsylvania.

U.S. Attorney David Freed said Andrew Manganas of Canonsburg and his company Panthera Painting Inc. pleaded to submitting false payroll reports that did not accurately reflect the amount workers were being paid under a more than $10 million subcontract that was part of a $42.5 million rehabilitation of the George Wade Bridge.

The 60-year-old Manganas and Panthera also pleaded guilty to knowingly discharging pollutants into the river over the course of the project. Manganas and his company were indicted in July 2016.

Prime contractor J.D. Eckman Inc. awarded Panthera the subcontract for the bridge contract in 2009. The company was to provide blasting, resurfacing and painting of structural steel on the span, which carries I-81 over the river between Dauphin and Cumberland counties.

According to federal prosecutors, Manganas paid only partial wages in a wage check to his employees and did not include overtime pay. He then paid overtime in a separate "per diem" check that did not properly deduct taxes and remittances, some of which were owed to the unions of which the workers were members.

By under-reporting wages, he defrauded the federal agencies. And he effectively stole money from the workers and the union, Freed's office said.

The side payroll scheme totaled about $400,000 in embezzled funds between 2011 and 2013, prosecutors have said. And workers on the project lost about $208,879 because Panthera did not pay federally set prevailing wages.

On the environmental charges, Manganas reportedly directed his workers to dump pollutants, including paint blasting materials, waste paint and metal into the river rather than collect them for recycling or disposal as hazardous waste.

Reached by email, his attorney Stephen Stallings said Manganas and the company would not have any comments on the case. A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.

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Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin and Cumberland counties. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jscott@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal.

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