Company and its owners charged with DBE fraud on 224 contracts dating back to 1995

Two owners of Carl M. Weber Steel Service, Inc. (Weber Steel), of Kutztown, PA, were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the Philadelphia U.S. Attorney’s Office announced June 16, 2015.

DBE Fraud HotlineThe conspiracy charge states that Dennis Weber, president of Weber Steel, and Dale Weber, vice president, engaged in a scheme to defraud the U.S. Department of Transportation through DOT’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program (DBE). Weber Steel, a bridge and highway construction contractor, was not a certified DBE, but set-up and utilized a sham DBE called Karen Construction Co., Inc. (Karen Construction) to obtain DBE subcontracts for bridge and highway construction.

From approximately April 1995 through November 2011, Karen Construction, posing as a DBE, obtained an estimated $18.7 million from approximately 224 federally-funded projects, when, in reality, it was controlled by Weber Steel, a non-DBE.

If convicted, defendants Dennis and Dale Weber each face a maximum sentence of five years in prison, two years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000, and a $100 special assessment.  Defendant Weber Steel faces a maximum sentence of five years of probation, a fine of up to $500,000, and a $100 special assessment.

The case was investigated by USDOT’s Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General/Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations.


New proposal would alter FAR subcontracting plan requirements

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) requires most large business contractors to have a plan approved by the government to subcontract a certain amount of their work to the various types of small business contractors (i.e., SDB, WOSB, SDVOSB, etc.). In the last few years, we have seen a noticeable increase in activity related to these subcontracting plans.

The FARSBA changed its subcontracting rules in July 2013 and since then has stepped up its audits to determine how well contractors are complying with their subcontracting plans. The FAR, which has lagged behind the updated SBA regulations, is now poised to catch up in several respects based on proposed changes released on June 10, 2015.

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Interested parties may submit written comments on this proposed rule.  Comments must be received on or before August 10, 2015 by mail to the General Services Administration, Regulatory Secretariat Division (MVCB), ATTN: Ms. Flowers, 1800 F. Street NW., 2nd Floor, Washington, DC 20405.  Cite FAR case 2014-003.  

Comments also may be sent via the Federal eRulemaking portal by searching “FAR Case 2014-003.”  Select the link “Comment Now” that corresponds with “FAR Case 2014-003.” Follow the instructions provided on the screen. Please include your name, company name (if any), and “FAR Case 2014-003” on your attached document.

3 business people arrested in Puerto Rico in ‘rent-a-vet’ scheme

A federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico has returned a five count indictment charging Jose A. Rosa-Colon, his brother and business partner, Ivan Rosa-Colon and Louis Enrique Torres with a multi-million dollar Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) scheme to defraud the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.  The charges include major fraud against the United States and wire fraud.  This investigation was conducted by Special Agents from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, Office of Inspector General, Criminal Investigations Division.

Justice Dept. sealThe indictment unsealed in federal court on June 3, 2015 alleges that from on or about 2007 to 2014, Ivan Rosa-Colon, Jose Rosa-Colon and Torres conspired to use Jose Rosa-Colon’s service-disabled veteran status to create BELKRO General Contractors, which was a pass- through or front company for Ivan Rosa-Colon’s other business, IRC Air Contractors.

vets firstThe indictment alleges that Ivan Rosa-Colon and Louis Torres used Jose Rosa-Colon’s service-disabled veteran status to certify and register BELKRO General Contractors in various government databases as a SDVOSB after Ivan Rosa- Colon learned that President George W. Bush would be signing a government stimulus package encouraging the use of SDVOSB.  The stimulus package would allow for government agencies to award non-competitive, set-aside or sole-source government contracts to SDVOSB like BELKRO General Contractors.

The indictment further alleges that Jose Rosa-Colon, owner of BELKRO General Contractors, was employed as a full-time U.S. Postal Service Carrier; he was not in charge of the day to day operations of BELKRO General Contractors.  Jose Rosa-Colon was simply a figurehead or “rent-a-vet”, who was being used for his service-disabled veteran status to obtain contracts for his brother Ivan Rosa-Colon’s company.  As a result of the scheme, BELKRO General Contractors unlawfully received set-aside and/or sole-source SDVOSB contracts from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, including contracts involving American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds.

If convicted, they face a term of 20 years in prison as to each wire fraud charge and up to ten years in prison for the charges of major fraud against the United States.  Additionally, they face fines of up to $250,000 and up to three years of supervised release as to each count.

This indictment was announced by U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez for the District of Puerto Rico, Special Agent in Charge Monty Stokes for the Southeast Field Office, Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, Criminal Investigations Division and Acting Special Agent in Charge Sharon Johnson for the Eastern Regional Office, Small Business Administration, Office of Inspector General.  The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Diaz-Rex.

Members of the public are reminded that an indictment constitutes only charges and that every person is presumed innocent until their guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.


Schedule 70 adding sections for health IT, cybersecurity

After the release of a special item number (SIN) for cloud products and services on IT Schedule 70, the General Services Administration is now looking to create two more SINs for targeted technologies, namely health IT and cybersecurity.

GSA logoThe Office of Integrated Technology Services (ITS) plans to issue a request for information in the next two weeks asking agencies and industry to comment on what needs to be included in a health IT SIN, according to Soundjata Carty, contracting officer at the ITS Office of IT Schedule Programs.

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Military contractor banned over claims of sexual exploitation

Navy logoThe U.S. Navy banned a longtime military contractor this week — two years after authorities were alerted to problems and three months after the Virginia Board of Medicine accused the company’s president of using drugs, alcohol and macabre medical procedures to sexually exploit personnel in his classes.

In March, the board suspended the medical license of John Hagmann, president of Deployment Medicine International, concluding that he had used students “for personal gain and sexual gratification.”

The board found that while teaching battlefield medicine in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and the United Kingdom, Hagmann allegedly conducted unnecessary and invasive procedures. It also concluded that he had directed students to drink large quantities of alcohol, injected them with the hallucinogen ketamine and other drugs, and conducted “shock labs,” which involved taking blood from students, monitoring them for shock and then transfusing the blood back into them.

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Federal contractors to be burdened with additional disclosure requirements if Government has its say

The U.S. Labor Department (DOL) and three federal agencies (the Department of Defense, the General Services Administration and NASA) recently issued two proposed documents relating to the implementation of Executive Order 13673, better known as the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order.

If enacted, these proposals would be problematic and burdensome for federal contractors; those who wish to have their voices heard on the matter have a July 27, 2015 deadline to submit comments on both documents.

The FARThe three contracting agencies issued a proposed rule amending the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) intending to ensure federal agencies contract with only those contractors that they find to be “responsible sources,” i.e. those with a satisfactory record of integrity and business ethics. Under the proposed rule, affected contractors and subcontractors will be required to:

  1. disclose labor law violations within the past three years;
  2. notify workers performing under the contract how their pay is being calculated each pay period;
  3. notify independent contractors that they are being treated as such; and
  4. refrain from entering into certain pre-dispute arbitration agreements with employees or independent contractors.

The document also outlines how contracting officers, in consultation with “agency labor compliance advisors” – new positions created by the Order – will determine whether a contractor is a “responsible source.” If not, the proposal provides rules on how they can become one (e.g., requiring certain remedial measures, including a compliance agreement) or whether the contractor will instead be referred for suspension and debarment.

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Contractors want guidance from Feds on OPM hack

Like federal employees, federal contractors are waiting for agencies to explain exactly what the OPM data breach affecting 4 million employees means for them.

OPM“Everyone’s on standby to find out if they are impacted,” said Pam Walker, senior director for homeland security at the information industry’s IT Alliance for Public Sector. “I know companies are working with OPM” and the Office of Management and Budget, which is preparing governmentwide cybersecurity guidance. Much of the governmentwide work, Walker notes, was in progress before the OPM breach.

Contractor representatives say they’re monitoring the National Archives and Records Administration, whose Information Security Oversight Office posted a proposed rule in the Federal Register last month to update policy detailing how agencies should designate, safeguard, disseminate and dispose of information that by law or regulation is sensitive but not formally classified.

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Protest deadline not met because debrief not required

Yet another unwary government contractor has been turned away by GAO because it failed to file its protest on time. Unsuccessful offerors that contest evaluation issues (rather than solicitation defects) have 10 days to file protests at GAO.

GAO-GovernmentAccountabilityOffice-SealThat generally applicable 10-day deadline is tolled when a “debriefing” is required in FAR Part 15 (and certain Part 16) procurements. But that tolling rule doesn’t apply when the FAR only requires that the agency provide an “explanation” to disappointed offerors (e.g., in FAR Parts 8, 12, and 13 procurements)—and does not mandate a “debriefing.” GAO’s decision in Gorod Shtor illustrates this rule by dismissing the protest of an offeror that fell into this bid protest trap.

Gorod Shtor wanted to sell drapery making and installation services for the U.S. embassy in Moscow. Gorod Shtor submitted a proposal for an IDIQ contract with the Department of State. Importantly, the RFQ was issued as a commercial item acquisition (under FAR Part 12) in which simplified acquisition procedures were applied under FAR Subpart 13.5. Award was to be made on a lowest-priced, technically acceptable basis.

The Agency’s award notice informed the disappointed offeror that the contract was awarded to a competitor, which Gorod Shtor believed did not meet certain RFQ requirements. The notice also stated “[i]f you desire a debriefing, please refer to FAR [] 52.212-1(l)” which lists the types of information to be provided by a debriefing but does not create a right to a debriefing. Gorod Shtor requested a debriefing and was informed of “the reasons why the agency had found the vendor to be technically unacceptable.”

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NC toll road moves ahead with contractor guilty of fraud

North Carolina transportation officials are pushing ahead with an embattled toll road outside Charlotte, even after a politically connected paving contractor involved in the $840-million project pleaded guilty last year to defrauding taxpayers.

NCDOTThe state Department of Transportation announced Thursday construction had begun on the Monroe Expressway, a 20-mile highway in Union County. The project, which had been stalled for years by a lawsuit over its environmental impact, is being built by a joint venture of three companies.

One of those firms, Boggs Paving Inc. of Monroe, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in September in what federal prosecutors described as a bid-rigging and kickback scheme involving nearly $88 million in government highway construction contracts between 2003 and 2014. Company president Carl A. “Drew” Boggs III is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to conspiracy and money laundering. He faces up to 25 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.

Despite that, the three-company consortium, Monroe Bypass Constructors LLC, has been paid $6.8 million by the state during the eight months since the guilty pleas were entered, according to N.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Charbonneau. In addition, Boggs Paving has been paid $108,290 since September for two other road projects.

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Federal contract spending fell 3.1 percent in 2014, study finds

Despite an overall hike in government spending in 2014, federal contract spending last year fell by $14.5 billion or 3.1 percent, according to the latest annual federal industry leaders study from Bloomberg Government, released on Friday.

Budget Versus Contract Obligations

But the good news for industry is that last year “may have represented the dawn of a new normal in the federal marketplace: contract spending was down following the drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq, but greater budget certainties allowed greater planning and projections,” the analysts noted.

The drop in Pentagon spending was partially offset by a $1 billion hike in spending by the Health and Human Services Department. HHS spent about a billion more last year on services to medical providers.

Technology Spending Increases

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