Skip to comments.Empire Built On Sand. Businessman allegedly poured inferior concrete into key projects [bridges]
Posted on 07/09/2006 2:54:01 PM PDT by John Jorsett
Ricardo Ramirez seemed an unlikely success story: At 57, the former Marine Corps judo instructor had spent more than 20 years as a paving contractor and had little to show for it but a long string of lawsuits, business failures and bankruptcies.
Then, in 1998, the struggling businessman appeared to hit upon a way to make it in a new venture. Taking advantage of city and state programs designed to help minority-owned businesses, Ramirez started turning out low-priced, locally produced concrete for projects that included earthquake retrofit work on the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge. By 2003, his Pacific Cement venture was supplying a third of the concrete used in San Francisco's public works projects.
Prosecutors now believe it was an empire of sand.
Ramirez built Pacific Cement on a combination of moxie, deceit and greed, prosecutors say, only to have it crumble. Left behind, they say, was a costly and potentially dangerous legacy: tons of substandard concrete built into vital public structures.
Ramirez, now 65, faces charges of grand theft and fraud for allegedly passing off inferior recycled concrete -- a cheaper material that is more prone to wear, cracks and water penetration -- as meeting higher durability standards for the Golden Gate Bridge and a Burlingame wastewater treatment plant. He has pleaded not guilty.
(Excerpt) Read more at sfgate.com ...
...and if any of his structures crumb and kill anyone, add mulitple counts of murder!
This reminds me of a situation we had in San Diego before minority set-asides in city work were abolished. One company was a Black-owned concrete supplier. When delivering for a non set-aside job, the guy charged a regular price, but when it was "Black concrete", the price went way up because he was the only game in town. Idiocy like that is illustrative of why those programs are usually a bad thing for taxpayers.
Programs which by their very nature are unethical, immoral and discriminatory.
There are supposed to be regular testing of the concrete batches that would catch the issue before the bad concrete was in place. There is way more to this issue.
I dunno about that. In the case of federal government contracting most of the work would be tied up by a few large companies if there weren't set asides that forced contracting officers to look elsewhere. Its sheer laziness most of the time. That and favors given and accepted.
"He was not a malicious guy. He didn't go into this business thinking he was going to rip people off,'' said San Francisco Supervisor Fiona Ma, who gave back $5,500 that Ramirez contributed in 2004 to her state Assembly bid after the news broke of the fraud allegations in May.
"He's a hard-working guy, just trying to survive,'' Ma said. "He takes care of his grandkids. He doesn't have an easy life."
And there you have it -- a local politician on record explaining away the fraudulent activity of a supporter. San Francisco politicians are priceless.
Exactly right. Slump tests among others are required and have to be certified when doing DOT or state work. I'm sure California is more strict than any other state regarding this. Someone was paid off.
Tell you what, if government contracting officers and COTRs got as much bribe money as you bidders believe, everybody around DC would be living in a 25,000 sq ft minimansion, on 1/2 acre, with a pool, and 2 SUVs in the drive.
This form of affirmative action racism is an affront to every hard working American.
Exactly my first thought. What the heck? Where was the general contractor oversight? Where was the city's engineer? Waaay more culpability here.
Yeah, but at least a minority got the contract!
Did you all read this article? Of course he was a malicious individual! How else do you rip off a city on such a horrendous scale, get caught for it a few times, throw the racist card, and keep doing what you've been doing?
Of course, the dopes in SF kept rehiring him, but does that really surprise anyone?
Excellent point. Here is OC, CA we had a delay on a Fwy project because when it was tested after pouring, it was found to be substandard. Like you said, there is WAY more to this than "we was dupped" which will be heard.
We actually have a situation where the engineers say "recycling" is bad? What do the enviros have to say about this? They should have the final say on whether recycled concrete aggregate can be used or not.
Next, the AG needs to investigate the inspectors office. At the very least someone was negligent, at the worse on the take. Neither should be tolerated and both should have ramifications, or else this kind of thing will happen again and again. Who inspects the inspectors?
You mean they DON'T.
Nope! Those few who "take" ordinarily end up in the federal prison at Petersburg, VA too. That way it's an easy trip for their families on "visitation weekends".
I work at a medium size airport in the mid west and seen many construction projects on the runways and taxiways. In each contract, when the work was finished but before it was accepted, a separate sub contractor would come out and drill core samples of the pavement put down to make sure it met specs.
Concur with Muawiyah. My organization (in the Marine Corps) requires many contracts. The contracting personnel do a lot of slug work that would numb your brain, but it is required by the Federal Acquisition Regulations. It is absolutely incredible on how much information a contractor has to send in to even be considered for a contract. And how much information has to be submitted for payment. If anyone shows even a hint of favoritism, it is investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Bingo. Where were the test cylinders with certified breaks from a testing lab?
Somebody check and see if he did any subcontract work for the Big Dig in Boston.
I remember a story out of South Korea, something about a bridge being built with inferior concrete - beach sand (salt) etc. It was a disaster.
It's been so long since I read the passage in a book, but when the great forts in Belgium fell one by one in WWI, the German engineers who inspected the reduced works claimed the concrete was fragile because the manufacturer adulterated it with dirt, or unwashed sand.
They were, in theory, quite formidable, but fell rather easily in practice. Due to cheap concrete.
Damn "whitey" just keeping everybody down!!! LOL! You can't make this stuff up. Blackbird.
My father, a retired aerospace engineer, went to Cozumel in 1989 to scuba dive. He watched the workers mix concrete using five gallon buckets and what appeared to be sea water as there were no hoses or water lines visible. Now we know why the buildings collapse during minor earthquakes.
"Tell you what, if government contracting officers and COTRs got as much bribe money as you bidders believe, everybody around DC would be living in a 25,000 sq ft minimansion, on 1/2 acre, with a pool, and 2 SUVs in the drive."
Kinda funny how the same companies always get the work isn't it?
As I said, its not necessarily corruption. Laziness has much to do with it. Its easier to stay with the people you know then to qualify new companies.
"....that included earthquake retrofit work on the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge. By 2003, his Pacific Cement venture was supplying a third of the concrete used in San Francisco's public works projects."
Where are the core sample test results? This stuff should have been tested at each pour. The licensed Professional Engineers in charge of each of these projects should have their license revoked, then fine the hell out of them. They each defrauded the taxpayers as much as the concrete supplier did.
I always feel a little uncomfortable driving over a bridge ---- built by the lowest bidder.
The certifications are still at Kinko's.
1. You must be responsive ~ not only do you have to actually make the bid in writing (not just on a phone call to your buddy), you must respond to the bid. If the government wants jeeps you can't offer to sell them ink pens. If this didn't happen all the time I wouldn't mention it.
2. You must be responsible ~ that is, you have to be able to deliver the goods, or the service. Just another way of saying that it helps to be in the business you say you're in.
3. Meet the deadline for responding.
Successful bidders usually have someone in charge of making sure they meet these three simple standards. An amazingly large number of bidders manage to miss deadlines, be in the business to deliver the goods or services they are bidding to provide, or explain how they are going to meet the contract requirements.
All those other rules, standards and procedures affecting federal government contracting have been designed to thwart theft, fraud, abuse, misuse, subversion, exversion, conversion, and aggravated mopery.
As long as you aren't already in jail it's pretty hard for any ordinary businessman to fail to meet all but the top three standards I discuss above.
When you violate any one of the top three standards, your bid will not be opened.
He needs to contact the White House.
Back in a former life, I did materials testing for road construction. This should have been an issue THEN, WHEN THE TEST CYLINDERS FAILED.
Who was the guy in the DOT that looked the other way? He's just as guilty.
And, you must be able to bond the job as well. Some insurance company is going to foot the bill for this. If a bond was not required, then the rot goes a lot deeper than the concrete.
It's more than slump tests in Mo. If the concrete supplier has a contract to supply for a State or Fed job, the concrete batch plant has to be certified by a licensed indendent company and observed by the DOT district representative. They also test the materials (sand, rock, cement and admixes) that are part of the formula. If this were to happen in Mo, the only person to point at would be the plant operator who would obviously have cheated the mix after the state certification of the plant. Essentially dialing down the amount of cement in the mix as that is the most expensive component of concrete.
I reviewed submissions for a company I worked a while back. The Gov't specs were so strange they were either written by an idiot (possible), rigged so only one outfit could bit (it happens), or the writer was just plain clueless and did a cut and paste from another contract or another's bases contract (happens a lot).
Blech and then some. Glad to be out of it, tho the pay was prety sweet.
Could it be that this guy had his own "slump test inspector" on the payroll, and he was providing pre-cast concrete components -- with faked cement quality test data...?
I'm a residential remodeling contractor and I am still chuckling at a friend who built a beach house with the guy who came in 200K below what I thought the job was worth. He's in court with original guy and now finishing up the job as his own general contractor.
How’d this miserable little bastard manage to qualify for the minority programs? His business should have never gotten off the ground!
These set-aside programs often permit a minority bidder to win with a slightly higher price. This theoretically would allow the government to command equal or higher quality from the “disadvantaged” firm. You can command all you want but if you don’t have the mechanisms to ensure quality (good past performance record or some kind of good QA/QC procedures or measures on the materials and workmanship), this is what you will eventually get.
This dillrod could have had it all....too bad he blew it.
Sounds more to me that his aggragates were basically ground up old concrete that could have had any amount of contaminates from topsoil, petroleum residue, rubber or who knows what, I could just picture he may have gotten ahold of the detrius of the last earthquakes concrete remains and who knows what was in the mix design.There had to be onsite inspectors getting a payout to falsefy the cores.
“There are supposed to be regular testing of the concrete batches that would catch the issue before the bad concrete was in place.”
The only testing is hardness which crushed concrete used as aggrigaate doesn’t affect.
What it does affect is the water absorbson which isn’t tested for.
When they first demanded that old concrete and left over redimix be reprocessed all the redimix companies were using it for aggigate and there were a lot of “hot” loads which were a bitch.
They no longer use it and it’s mostly used for base under roadbeads.