Before New Jersey signed a $500 million contract in 1998 with Parsons Corp. — the lone bidder to privatize the state’s auto inspection program — state prosecutors had quietly begun a criminal investigation into the imminent selection of the Pasadena, Calif.-based company.

The probe was halted with no action taken, the contract was let on Aug. 3, 1998, despite dire warnings by the state’s own consultants and the objections of state senators from both parties and subsequently Parsons Corp. couldn’t perform.

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