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4 Oklahomans convicted in $100 million construction bid rigging conspiracy

 An example of a sediment barrier for erosion control.
Texas Department of Transportation
An example of a sediment barrier for erosion control.

Taxpayer-funded construction projects use a bid system, where companies compete to offer the most cost-effective services. That includes erosion control projects, which help stabilize the land around roads. But the owners and operators of four Oklahoma erosion control companies agreed not to compete with each other, conspiring to falsely inflate the price of projects.

In some cases, companies would intentionally submit high bids or refuse to submit bids at all, effectively guaranteeing another company’s bid would be accepted. The companies took turns based on the location of the construction project, fixing prices for more than $100 million worth of contracts.

Investigators from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s internal watchdog office and the Federal Bureau of Investigations worked on the case. Four separate cases were filed in the U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City, charging each co-conspirator with violating the Sherman Antitrust Act.

“In Oklahoma and across the United States, Americans depend on transportation infrastructure as they travel to work, study, shop and visit family,” Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division said in a statement. “Protecting fair and open competition for the public contracts that fund this infrastructure has never been more vital.”

The defendants owned and/or operated erosion control companies across the state:

  • James Travis Feazel, the former operations manager of a company based in Weatherford. Feazel was involved in the conspiracy between 2017 and 2023, during which time his company participated in $50 million of bids. Before operating the erosion control company, Feazel worked for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for 15 years, according to his LinkedIn.

  • Stanley Mark Smith, the owner of a company operated out of Claremore and Catoosa. Smith and Feazel were both involved for the full known length of the conspiracy, from 2017 to 2023, during which Smith’s company participated in $42 million of bids.

  • Roy Henry Heinrich, the former owner of an El Reno-based company. He stayed involved in the conspiracy from 2017 until at least 2021. His company targeted $7 million worth of bids during that time.

  • Ryan Ashley Sullivan, the owner of a company in Lawton. He was involved in the conspiracy from 2017 until at least 2019. The U.S. Department of Justice didn’t provide information about the worth of his company’s bids.

Feazel was the first to plead guilty in September 2023; Smith was the last in February 2024.

The charges carry a maximum of 10 years in prison and up to a $1 million base fine for each co-conspirator. The court could add fines based on how much money the conspirators gained from their crimes.

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Copyright 2024 KOSU. To see more, visit KOSU.

Graycen Wheeler