A civil-engineering firm whose clients included dozens of area municipal governments, school districts, and churches from the Philadelphia suburbs to the Poconos spent nearly a decade defrauding them by billing for work it never completed, state prosecutors asserted Tuesday.
In all, clients of Boucher & James Inc., allegedly were overbilled by $2 million by the Doylestown-based company, with almost a quarter of that total being paid by one unsuspecting Bucks County township.
Agents from the Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday arrested former company owner Ross Boucher, 58, as well as former board directors Mark Eisold, 57, and David Jones, 63. All three face charges of racketeering, theft by deception, and related offenses.
According to the affidavit of probable cause for their arrests, the three oversaw a plan between 2009 and 2018 to manipulate their employees’ time cards, artificially inflating the number of hours worked. In one instance, an employee was allegedly paid as if he had worked 34 hours in a single day.
The firm contracted with more than 100 clients throughout Bucks, Chester and Montgomery Counties, acting as engineers or project managers at townships and small boroughs, or working directly with school districts, businesses, and churches. They also performed similar work in Carbon, Northampton, and Monroe Counties, north of Philadelphia.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro, in a statement, promised to hold all three executives “accountable for their crimes.”
Boucher, Eisold, and Jones all were released on $10,000 unsecured bail.
Eisold‘s attorney, Mark Cedrone, said Tuesday that the case is more complex than the allegations laid out by Shapiro’s office, and asserts his client’s innocence.
“From Mr. Eisold’s perspective, no client for whom he had any billing responsibility received anything other than fair and full value for services rendered,” Cedrone said.
Boucher did not respond to a request for comment. Jones referred a reporter to his attorney, Steven Fairlie, who also did not return a request for comment.
The fraud alleged by investigators came to light in 2018, when another member of the company’s board of directors discovered the inaccurate billing and sent his findings to Boucher, who resigned not long after, the affidavit said.
Workers at the firm told investigators it was routine for the executives to add additional hours to their time cards before the bills were finalized, the affidavit said. Additionally, one accountant allegedly said she was instructed to increase pay rates threefold for some projects in order to increase the company’s profits.
Other former Boucher & James employees told investigators they either objected to, or outright decried, the overbilling, and that no action was taken, according to the affidavit.
And for many clients, the alleged fraud wasn’t discovered initially, if at all.
Lower Makefield Township, a municipality of about 32,000 in eastern Bucks County, suffered the most significant losses — about $524,000 between 2009 and 2018, according to court records.
Fred Weiss, the chairman of the township’s board of directors, told The Inquirer on Tuesday the problems with the firm were apparent almost immediately when he took office in January 2018.
As the township’s appointed engineer, Boucher & James had botched major construction projects in Lower Makefield, Weiss said, including building a community center with no phone hookups and incorrect doors, and a project at a train crossing that caused one road in the township to be closed for four years.
Weiss and the newly installed township manager then found issues in past invoices, with the municipality having been charged for services it never received.
“We fired them in 2018, while we were already tied up in litigation with them [over the projects they handled],” Weiss said. “But by then, the damage had already been done.”