LB&B Associates Inc. and its principals, Lily A. Brandon and F. Edward Brandon, have agreed to pay the government $7.8 million to resolve allegations that they made false statements to obtain contracts through the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) 8(a) Business Development Program for Small Disadvantaged Businesses, the Justice Department announced July 6, 2015. LB&B is a North Carolina corporation headquartered in Columbia, Maryland.
“The purpose of the 8(a) Program is to assist small disadvantaged businesses to compete in the American economy,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “The Justice Department is committed to making sure that those who participate in 8(a) contracts do so honestly and fairly.”
“The basic purpose of this federal program is undermined when contractors falsely claim to be a small or disadvantaged business,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Vincent H. Cohen Jr. of the District of Columbia. “This $7.8 million settlement demonstrates our commitment to protecting the integrity of this important program. Working with relators and federal investigators, we will do all that we can to act against those who illegitimately bill the American taxpayers.”
The government alleged that in seeking certification under SBA’s 8(a) Program, LB&B falsely represented that Lily Brandon – who satisfied the criteria for a socially and economically disadvantaged person under the program – controlled the operations of LB&B, when she did not. Securing 8(a) certification allowed LB&B to obtain 8(a) set aside contracts from various government agencies. Throughout the performance of these contracts, Lily Brandon allegedly failed to exercise actual control over LB&B’s operations, a key component to qualifying for the set aside contracts.
“This case shows the lengths we will go to protect the integrity of SBA’s 8(a) program,” said General Counsel Melvin F. Williams Jr. of the SBA. “Both the Justice Department and SBA are prepared to do what it takes to make certain that the program helps folks who are really disadvantaged, and for whom it is intended to assist.”
The civil settlement resolves a lawsuit filed by Steven O. Sansbury and James T. Buechler, former employees of LB&B, under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act, which permits private parties, known as relators, to file suit on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery. The act permits the government either to intervene in and take over the whistleblowers’ suit, or to allow the whistleblowers to pursue the action. In addition to alleging LB&B’s improper receipt of 8(a) set aside contracts, Mr. Sansbury and Mr. Buechler alleged that LB&B made false claims in connection with contracts it obtained pursuant to the SBA’s Mentor-Protégé Program, which allows participants to obtain set aside contracts following LB&B’s graduation from the 8(a) Program. The United States intervened in the whistleblowers’ 8(a) claims but not the Mentor-Protégé claims. The settlement resolves both claims, and Mr. Sansbury and Mr. Buechler will recover a total of $1.5 million of the settlement.
The settlement with LB&B was the result of a coordinated effort among the Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia, the SBA’s Office of Inspector General and SBA’s Office of General Counsel.
The civil lawsuit was filed in the District of Columbia and is captioned United States ex rel. Sansbury, et al. v. LB&B Associates, Inc., et al., No. 07-cv-00251 (D. D.C.).
The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.