Ricky A. Lanier and his wife Katrina R. Lanier, both of LaGrange, N.C., have been sentenced to serve federal prison terms of 48 months and 30 months, respectively, for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and major fraud against the United States. The couple were found guilty of these offenses on Dec. 17, 2015, following a 13-day jury trial in U.S. District Court. Their sentence was announced on Oct. 3, 2016.
According to evidence presented at trial, the Laniers conspired from November 2005 to April 2013 to defraud the government through a scheme to fraudulently obtain federal contracts intended to be awarded to businesses lawfully participating in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) program and the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 8(a) Business Development program. Specifically, they falsely represented that JMR Investments was eligible as an 8(a) business and that Kylee Construction was eligible as an SDVOSB and an 8(a) business.
Ricky Lanier, who had previously owned and operated an 8(a) business receiving government contracts, became ineligible to participate in the 8(a) program after that business graduated from that program in 2008. Lanier used a friend and service-disabled veteran as the purported owner of Kylee Construction, representing that the friend was involved in the daily management of the business, even while the friend was working for a government contractor in Afghanistan. The Laniers used a business, JMR Investments owned by Ricky Lanier’s college roommate, as a front to obtain construction contracts from the National Park Service and other federal agencies under the 8(a) program, misrepresenting the friend’s involvement in the management and operation of the business. The scheme also involved subcontracting out all or almost all of the work on the contracts in violation of program requirements.
Ricky Lanier also defrauded the National Park Service in connection with a contract to replace a wastewater treatment facility at the Tremont Institute in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, falsely representing subcontractor costs by over $400,000, resulting in the award of a $1.1 million contract for work on the project that was actually performed by a subcontractor for only $550,000. Lanier also fraudulently obtained a $1.3 million construction contract at the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center which had been set aside for SDVOSBs.
As a result of the false representations, Kylee Construction was awarded over $5 million in government contracts and JMR Investments was awarded over $9 million in government contracts. The Laniers received almost $2 million in financial benefit from the scheme, using accounts of the shell companies for payment of personal expenses.
Law enforcement agencies participating in the joint investigation which led to indictment and subsequent conviction of Ricky and Katrina Lanier included the VA-Office of Inspector General (OIG), SBA- OIG; and Department of the Interior, OIG, with assistance from the U.S. Secret Service. Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Smith and Assistant U.S. Attorney David L. Gunn represented the United States.