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LOS ANGELES-A Superior Court jury has ordered construction giant Tutor-Saliba Corp. to pay the city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority $29.5 million, after finding that the company submitted false bills and used straw companies to pad its profits.

MTA officials had accused Tutor-Saliba, one of California’s largest contractors, of more than 1,000 unfair business practices and had asked the jury for $41 million. After the $29.5-million award was announced, Tutor-Saliba president Ronald N. Tutor called it “a terrible injustice” and said his company would appeal.

The award came just three weeks after LA Superior Court Judge Joseph Kalin tossed out Tutor-Saliba’s own lawsuit against the MTA, ruling that the company intentionally withheld some important documents and destroyed others during its six-year-long litigation. The public transportation agency claims it was duped into paying millions to sham companies that Tutor-Saliba secretly controlled while working on the city’s Metro Rail subway project.

The judge’s decision, combined with the jury’s big award, could make it harder for Tutor-Saliba to gain future contracts for the type of giant public works projects that have been the company’s claim to fame. Some of its most recent jobs include the expansion of the San Diego Convention Center and LA Central Library as well as the modernization and expansion of San Francisco International Airport.

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