Thursday, September 11, 2014

Electrical Contractor Overbills Public Schools, Faces 20 Yrs

An electrical contractor shamelessly overbilled the city’s public schools for years — including charging up to $300 for kitchen receptacles that cost $2 — in a $1 million-plus scam, according to federal investigators. The greedy Brooklyn-based contractor was supposed to be fixing problems in kitchens used to feed elementary school kids.

Instead, Acme American Repairs Inc. and an affiliated refrigeration company outrageously overbilled the Department of Education — even for phantom work that was never done, officials said.

In addition to the seemingly gold-plated electrical outlets, owner Eduardo Lazzari charged the Department of Education $572 for circuit breakers that normally cost $18, federal officials said.

“No effort was made to determine what actual part was installed at the particular DOE school, nor was any effort made to determine the cost to Acme of purchasing the installed part,” said Jason Samuels, a criminal investigator for the Manhattan US Attorney’s office, in the complaint.

Lazzari’s companies also raked in $157.50 for each of at least 8,000 carbon dioxide “leak tests” that were supposedly performed on school refrigerators between 2006 and 2012. But not only were the tests never performed — they should never have been authorized in the first place, authorities said.

“Carbon dioxide is not used in connection with conducting a leak test of refrigeration units,” Samuels said.

In fact, the carbon dioxide test Acme billed to the Department of Education in connection with leak tests of refrigeration equipment is actually used for air testing in cooking and heating equipment, and has no application for refrigeration equipment.

Adding insult to injury, the company only charged private and parochial schools between $15 and $65 for the same tests during this period.

Lazzari of Bayside, Queens, was arrested and released on $500,000 bail after appearing in Manhattan Federal Court.

He was charged with defrauding the Department of Education between 2006 and February 2013 through two DOE contracts that paid Acme more than $23 million —more than double the anticipated costs of the original contracts.

Acme has also made tens of millions of dollars through other city contracts with DOE, the Department of Correction, Administration for Children Services and other city agencies.

The DOE’s special commissioner of investigation began investigating Lazzari in 2012.

If convicted, Lazzari faces up to 20 years behind bars and up to $250,000 in fines.

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