Construction Contractor Pays $1 Million to Settle Fraud Allegations Relating to a Federal Program Designed to Help Disadvantaged Businesses
Williams Brothers Construction Inc. (WBCI) from Peoria Heights, Illinois, agreed to pay $1 million to settle claims that the company violated the False Claims Act by misrepresenting themselves as a smaller, disadvantaged business to obtain program grants for a federally-funded construction contract. The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort by the Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois, and DOT OIG.
“The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program of the Department of Transportation creates important opportunities for small businesses to participate in construction projects paid for with federal funds,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “We will hold accountable those who misrepresent their compliance with program requirements to obtain taxpayer funds to which they are not entitled, and thereby undermine the program’s goal of supporting small businesses.”
The settlement resolves claims of fraud uncovered after WBCI completed the construction of a new terminal building at the Peoria International Airport. The federal government contends that the construction company knowingly made false representations regarding its plans to use a small disadvantaged company for work on the new terminal and falsified documents to make it appear that the disadvantaged company performed window, glazing, and curtain wall work on the contract. Instead, WBCI allegedly used this company as a cover, and had the work completed by another ineligible company.
“The settlement reached today is a step on the way to closing the chapter on this egregious fraud scheme involving a federally funded construction project at Peoria International Airport,” said Andrea M. Kropf, Regional Special Agent-in-Charge of the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (DOT OIG). “While the damage to the integrity of DOT’s DBE program in this instance cannot be undone, it only serves to strengthen our resolve in pursuing those whose actions prevent the legitimate participation of disadvantaged businesses in federal contracting on transportation projects.”