Utah company pays $928,000 to settle SBA fraud case

by Ben Vernia | March 23rd, 2014

On March 21, the Department of Justice announced that Okland Constr. Co., Inc., has agreed to pay $928,000 to settle allegations that the firm defrauded the Small Business Administration under that agency’s Section 8(a) program. According to DOJ’s press release:

Okland Construction Co. Inc. has agreed to pay the government $928,000 to resolve allegations that it made false statements and submitted false claims under the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Section 8(a) Program for Small and Disadvantaged Businesses, the Justice Department announced today.

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Okland Construction, a large construction company, entered into a mentor-protégé agreement with Saiz Construction Co., a participant in the 8(a) Program. The mentor-protégé program allows a large business mentor to form an SBA-approved joint venture with a small business protégé to jointly bid on and perform 8(a) contracts, which are contracts awarded by federal agencies that are set aside solely for small businesses. Without a qualifying joint venture, the mentor and protégé cannot jointly bid on 8(a) contracts, and the mentor cannot perform the primary functions of the contract.

The government alleged that Okland Construction did not form a qualifying joint venture with Saiz Construction and thus was not eligible to jointly bid on or perform the primary functions of eight 8(a) contracts with Saiz Construction. Nevertheless, Okland Construction allegedly prepared the bids for the 8(a) contracts and its employees served as project managers, submitted invoices and performed payroll and other accounting functions. Furthermore, Okland Construction allegedly concealed its extensive involvement in performing the 8(a) contracts by misrepresenting to the government that its employees were employees of Saiz Construction.

The government also alleged that Okland Construction’s relationship with Saiz Construction violated the terms of an SBA set-aside contract awarded to Saiz Construction that required Saiz Construction to perform at least 15 percent of the labor on the contract minus the cost of materials.

DOJ announced that the whistleblowers, Saiz Construction and its owner, Abel Saiz, will receive $148,480 (a 16% relator’s share).

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