The U.S. has recovered more than $2.8 million from an Oklahoma-based construction contractor, thanks to a whistleblower who alleged the company was illegally obtaining government contracts reserved for disadvantaged small businesses.
The U.S. Department of Justice said the Ross Group Construction Corporation “fraudulently induced the government to award certain small business set-aside contracts to several affiliated entities that did not meet eligibility requirements.”
The U.S. government often reserves certain contract work for small businesses owned by veterans, minorities, or other groups. To qualify for a set-aside contract, a company must meet eligibility criteria, including requirements concerning size, ownership, and operational control.
The settlement with Ross Group resolves allegations that the company fraudulently persuaded the government to award various set-aside contracts to several affiliated entities that did not meet eligibility requirements.
According to the Justice Department, because it was ineligible for the contracts, Ross Group created two companies, PentaCon LLC and C3 LLC, that would appear to meet the requirements. It then maintained daily and long-term control of the small businesses, including managing their financial affairs and business operations. In applying for the set-aside contracts, PentaCon LLC and C3 LLC concealed their affiliation with Ross Group from the U.S. and misrepresented their eligibility.
“It is critical that we protect the integrity of federal government contract programs so that taxpayer money goes only to those who legitimately qualify for assistance,” said U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Downing for the Western District of Oklahoma.
“We will continue to hold accountable those who make false statements to take unfair advantage of programs for which they would not otherwise qualify, because it deprives legitimate applicants from obtaining these necessary benefits,” he added.
The lawsuit that led to the settlement was filed by a whistleblower under the False Claims Act, a law that authorizes private citizens to sue on behalf of the federal government for fraud, waste, abuse, and other wrongdoing. Whistleblowers whose FCA cases lead to a settlement or judgment receive 15% to 25% of the total amount recovered, or up to 30% if the government does not intervene. The whistleblower in this case received a $520,000 award – nearly 19% of the settlement, according to the Justice Department.
Beasley Allen has a Whistleblower Litigation Team in place to handle False Claims Act (FCA) claims. Due to our firm’s heavy involvement in whistleblower litigation, there was a definite need for the creation of a team specializing in whistleblower cases. Fraud against the federal government has been and continues to be a huge problem, involving many industries in this country.
As we have consistently stated, whistleblowers are the key to exposing corporate wrongdoing and government fraud. A person who has first-hand knowledge of fraud or other wrongdoing may have a whistleblower case. Before you report suspected fraud or other wrongdoing – before you “blow the whistle” – it is important to make sure you have a valid claim and that you are prepared for what lies ahead. Beasley Allen’s group of lawyers dedicated to handling whistleblower cases can navigate you the oftentimes risky and complex litigation.
Lawyers on our whistleblower litigation team are Lance Gould, Larry Golston, Lauren Miles, Leon Hampton, Leslie Pescia, Paul Evans and Tyner Helms. If you are aware of fraud being committed against the federal or state governments, you could be rewarded for reporting the fraud. If you have any questions about whether you qualify as a whistleblower, you can contact a lawyer at Beasley Allen for a free and confidential evaluation of your claim.