Sidney man pleads guilty to defrauding Maine DOT of $91,000 on bridge project

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Jun. 11—A man who worked for a state contractor on a Gardiner bridge project two years ago pleaded guilty Friday to inflating project costs and receiving about $91,000 in federal funds he was not entitled to receive.

Jim Wentworth, 51, of Sidney was released on personal recognizance bail after pleading guilty remotely in U.S. District Court in Bangor.

A sentencing date has not been set.

In May of 2019, Wentworth was the project manager for a general contractor on a Maine Department of Transportation bridge contract in Gardiner, according to the prosecution's version of events, to which he admitted. The project was funded, in part, through federal highway funds provided through the Federal Highway Administration and approved by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation's office.

Wentworth received an itemized cost list from a subcontractor, and then falsely inflated the costs on the subcontractor's letterhead, according to federal prosecutors.

By pleading guilty, Wentworth admitted that he used this falsified cost list in preparing a contract modification in which his employer, the general contractor, received a payment of its costs plus an agreed-upon percentage. Wentworth's conduct caused the Maine DOT to overpay the general contractor, who is not named in court documents, by about $91,000.

The court document also said that he had admitted his conduct to Maine DOT employees and apologized for it.

Wentworth's attorney, Richard Berne of Portland, said that the fraud was out of character for his client.

"Jim Wentworth is a loving husband and father and long time, valued member of his community," Berne said after the guilty plea. "Consistent therewith, he cooperated fully in the investigation of this matter and has accepted responsibility for his conduct."

It is the practice of the U.S. Attorney's office, which is prosecuting the case, not to comment on pending cases.

If convicted, Wentworth faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

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