Charges filed against Sierra-Tahoe Ready Mix GM
Authorities are charging the general manager of Sierra-Tahoe Ready Mix Inc. with at least three counts of fraud related to government construction contracts, following a raid on the South Lake Tahoe cement company nearly seven months ago.
According to court documents filed on Oct. 9, the District Attorney of El Dorado County is alleging that Michael Wallace of Sierra-Tahoe Ready Mix “unlawfully and with intent to defraud” presented a “false and fraudulent claim” for payment related to certain construction projects.
The South Shore man is being charged with a fourth count of fraud, but it is unclear whether that one is related to a government job.
The projects listed on the criminal complaint include the Sierra Tract Waterline Replacement project, Angora Creek Sewer Location project and Pioneer Trail Pedestrian Improvement Project.
The Angora Creek job’s actual title is the Angora Creek Sewer Relocation Project. It was spearheaded by the South Tahoe Public Utility District in 2013, as was the Sierra Tract Waterline Replacement Project.
The 2013 Pioneer Trail Pedestrian improvement job was a City of South Lake Tahoe project, however.
Wallace denied any fraudulent actions in a phone interview Tuesday, saying inspections are constantly performed on his materials, and he’s never had a bad result.
“I’ve got to plead not guilty on Thursday and go through the process I guess,” he said.
Wallace said he never defrauded anyone, but admitted to changing a date on a concrete mix design last year, which he divulged he wasn’t supposed to do and was the reason behind the charges.
He said the company was coming out of a tough financial year in 2012 when he changed the date on the mix design to 2013.
“What I did was wrong,” he said, “but I don’t believe I defrauded anyone.”
The El Dorado County DA’s office said in an Oct. 14 email that it “will not be making further comments” on the matter, after stating the case was still under review pending further investigation shortly before the charges were filed.
Word of an investigation into the cement company’s operations first came to light in March of this year via a public statement from the City of South Lake Tahoe.
The city news release said public works engineers had recently learned that Ready Mix was “possibly issuing false or fraudulent documents relating to government construction contracts.”
City Manager Nancy Kerry at the time said the implications could be “staggering.”
However, STPUD General Manager Richard Solbrig said Tuesday he’s “not real concerned” about two district projects being listed under the criminal complaint, since the risk of damage or danger is low on those particular jobs.
“They were not in buildings and structures that are really counting on them to meet the strength requirements of the project,” he said, adding that the cement used was for “underground support.”
Other projects Sierra-Tahoe Ready Mix has been involved in the South Shore include several school buildings, the Chateau project at the state line and the Aspens at South Lake affordable housing project.
An arraignment in the case is scheduled for Oct. 23.