by Mindy Aguon
Guam - The federal government is pursuing criminal charges against four Department of Public Works employees who were cleared of fraud charges in the Superior Court in 2008. A federal indictment was handed down on Wednesday against DPW chief engineer Liberty Perez, chief planner and public information officer Josephine Torres, and engineer supervisors Danilo Galiza and Ariel Evarola.
The four are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud concerning a program receiving federal funds, fraud concerning a program receiving federal funds, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud. According to the indictment, the four are accused of falsifying records in order to fraudulently obtain more than $5,000 in overtime compensation for overtime the federal government contends they did not actually work.
In October 2006, then-governor Felix Camacho signed an executive order that allowed DPW employees such as engineers and other positions to receive overtime for work performed until December 2006. The indictment alleges that Perez falsely certified that she worked OT in excess of $5,000 between October and December of that year purportedly for her performance on Federal Highway Administration road projects. Torres was the agency's Chief Planner from June to September 2006 and was then the PIO and was ineligible to receive OT.
Perez, Torres, Galiza and Evarola certified that they had worked by allegedly falsifying time sheets and seeking OT compensation. DPW then acted on the requests for compensation by submitting payment vouchers to FHWA in Hawaii. According to news files, the four were charged with tampering with public records and theft by deception for allegedly defrauding the local and federal governments, but the charges were dismissed and the four returned to their positions at the agency. Perez was also under fire by the Professional Engineers, Architects and Land Surveyors board. She was charged with ordering horizontal drilling under and across the Agat/Umatac Road in order to create drainage for a flood prone area.
It's alleged that Perez, who is only an electrical engineer and not a civil or structural engineer, ignored the warnings of others who have more experience with soil resulting in severe erosion that has caused this road to become unstable. She was also accused of signing off on certifications for elevator inspectors knowing that the individuals did not meet the necessary requirements.