If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Don’t Build the Kitchen: Construction Company Settles Allegations of Small Business Subcontracting Fraud for $2.8 Million
For knowingly hiring a company that was not a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business to fulfill a set aside contract, a construction contractor settled allegations of small business subcontracting fraud for $2.8 million. A corporate whistleblower, Fox Unlimited Enterprises, brought this misconduct to light. We previously reported on the record-setting small business fraud settlement with TriMark USA LLC, to which this settlement is related. For reporting government contracts fraud, the whistleblower will receive $630,925 of the settlement.
According to the allegations, the general contractor and construction company Hensel Phelps was awarded a General Services Administration (GSA) contract to build the Armed Forces Retirement Home’s New Commons/Health Care Building in Washington, D.C. Part of the contract entailed sharing the work with small businesses, including service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSB). The construction contractor negotiated all aspects of the contract with an unidentified subcontractor and then hired an SDVOSB, which, according to the settlement agreement, Hensel Phelps knew was “merely a passthrough” for the larger subcontractor, thus creating the appearance of an SDVOSB performing the work on the contract to meet the set-aside requirements. The supposedly SDVOSB subcontractor was hired to provide food service equipment for the Armed Forces Retirement Home building.
“Set aside” contracts are government contracts intended to provide opportunities to SDVOSB, women-owned small businesses, and other economically disadvantaged companies to do work they might not otherwise access. Large businesses performing work on government contracts are often required to subcontract part of their work to these types of small businesses. “Taking advantage of contracts intended for companies owned and operated by service-disabled veterans demonstrates a shocking disregard for fair competition and integrity in government contracting,” said the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, as well as a shocking disregard for proper stewardship of taxpayer funds.
Whistleblowers can help fight fraud and protect taxpayers by reporting government contracts fraud. A whistleblower can report government contracts fraud under the False Claims Act and become a relator in a qui tam lawsuit, from which they may be entitled to a share of the funds the government recovers from fraudsters.