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S.F. Accuses Company of Fraud in Airport Work

Lawsuit alleges Tutor- Saliba, which lost similar case to MTA, inflated billing. The head of the Sylmar firm says suit is unfounded.

November 07, 2002|Kurt Streeter | Times Staff Writer

Sylmar-based construction giant Tutor-Saliba engaged in a complex pattern of fraud and inflated its billing during work on the San Francisco International Airport expansion, completed two years ago, a civil lawsuit alleges.

The suit, filed Tuesday by the San Francisco city attorney's office, comes a little more than one year after Tutor-Saliba was found guilty of fraud for its 1990s construction work in Los Angeles on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Red Line subway. The company was ordered to pay $51 million in damages and legal fees in that case.

"The public needs to send a message to companies like this," said San Francisco City Atty. Dennis Herrera. "We are not going to be taken advantage of."

The San Francisco lawsuit seeks $30 million in damages and asks that Tutor-Saliba be banned from public works projects in San Francisco.

Tutor-Saliba's president, Ronald Tutor, said that the lawsuit was bogus and that Herrera was trying to unfairly capitalize on the MTA case. He contended that the airport is happy with his company's work.

"We've worked with that airport for 20 years, and we have a great relationship with them," Tutor said.

A San Francisco airport spokesman, Mike McCarron, declined comment.

The original airport construction contract was for $620 million. The lawsuit alleges that Tutor-Saliba inflated the cost by more than $100 million over the agreed figure.

Tutor-Saliba, one of the nation's largest public works construction firms, is also alleged to have created bogus minority firms as fronts and to have purposely kept false and misleading records.

Among the new construction built by Tutor-Saliba were airport offices, parking garages, boarding areas and a station for commuter trains.

McCarron said the work was finished in 2000.

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