FARMINGTON — A Woodstock woman pleaded guilty Wednesday to submitting nearly $60,000 in false lodging receipts to two companies who hired her to inspect bridge materials for two projects New York City.

Sheila Curtis, 51, pleaded guilty to two Class C charges each of theft and forgery.

A conviction on each charge carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. In a plea agreement, the state dismissed four Class B charges that carry the maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and up to a $20,000 fine.

The agreement delayed sentencing for 24 months while Curtis complies with its terms and repays $48,978.98 in the New York City case. She repaid $10,955.52 in the Maine case.

If Curtis completes the agreement, she will be able to withdraw pleas to the felony charges and plead to misdemeanor charges. She will also serve 90 days in jail.

If she does not complete the agreement, the court will decide the sentence, Justice William Stokes said.

Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin said if the case went to trial, witnesses would testify that from June through October 2015, Curtis was employed as a materials inspector by HRV Conformance Verification Associates Inc. of Pennsylvania, a consultant for the Maine Department of Transportation.

Curtis’ job was to inspect work on bridge materials being fabricated at ARC Enterprises Inc. in Kingfield, Robbin said.

Curtis lived in Woodstock and would have been entitled to reimbursement of lodging expenses, because the job was more than 50 miles from her home.

A Maine DOT employee would testify that in early October 2015 the MDOT assigned her to take over Curtis’ function of inspecting the bridge fabrication work at ARC.

The state employee learned from other workers that “Curtis was unhappy at being replaced, because they said, ‘Curtis had been staying at a camp she owned in Kingfield, even though she had been billing for lodging expenses at a (hotel in Carrabassett Valley),’” Robbin said.

The state employee reported the information to supervisors, who determined Curtis had been submitting forged invoices for reimbursement.

During the investigation in Franklin County, it was discovered Curtis had engaged in a similar scheme from Nov. 9, 2009, through Sept. 1, 2011. She was inspecting materials being fabricated by Cianbro in Pittsfield for Manhattan and Brooklyn bridge projects in New York City, Robbin said.

In that case she was working for consultant Pennoni Associates of Pennsylvania, which was providing inspection services for the New York City transportation department.

According to the New York City inspector general, Curtis fraudulently billed $48,978.98 for lodging, Robbin said. During that project, she submitted fraudulent lodging expenses from establishments in Pittsfield and Fairfield.

Curtis admitted to a detective from the Maine Attorney General’s Office that she had not paid for lodging in either case and created receipts, Robbin said.

Curtis’ attorney, Walter Hanstein, said they had no issues with the state’s evidence. He said Curtis took responsibility for her actions.

HRV President H. Rochelle Stachel told Justice William Stokes that she objected to the plea agreement. The company has already paid MDOT $50,000 and the state wants $28,000 more regarding Curtis’ actions, she said.

The state will not pay Curtis’ salary, mileage and per diem compensation because witnesses said she was not at the shop all the time she said she was, according to Stachel. 

“Something like this could have taken our entire company down,” Stachel said. The company employes 180 people and deals with federal and state contracts.

She said the company’s reputation has been damaged.

The state could prove falsified lodging receipts but could not prove Curtis collected salary she was not entitled to, Robbin said.

The company could look into civil action against Curtis, according to court discussion.

Hanstein said it was the first he heard Stachel’s information.

HRV has also filed a complaint with the American Welding Society to have Curtis’ welding certification pulled.

Hanstein said if the certificate is pulled Curtis cannot pay back the money.

Hanstein said there are parts of the plea agreement that Curtis knows will be difficult over the next two years, plus she has to serve 90 days in jail.

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