WASHINGTON – Platinum One Contracting, located in Capitol Heights, Md., its president, Anthony Wright, and Capitol Contractors, also located in Capitol Heights, and its president, Vernon J. Smith III, have agreed to pay the United States $200,000 to settle claims that they used false statements to obtain contracts from the Department of Defense, the Justice Department announced today. The contracts had been set aside for companies that qualified for the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 8(a) business development program, as well as for businesses that qualified for the Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) program.
Under the SBA’s 8(a) business development program, a business owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals can apply for certification from the SBA as an 8(a) business. A business certified as an 8(a) contractor can obtain certain preferences during the contracting process, and can bid on contracts that the agency has set aside for qualified 8(a) businesses. A business can remain in the 8(a) program for up to nine years.
Under the HUBZone program, companies that maintain their principal office in a designated HUBZone and employ 35 percent of their workforce from a HUBZone, among other requirements, can apply to the SBA for certification as a HUBZone small business company. A HUBZone company can then use this certification when bidding on government contracts. In certain cases, government agencies will restrict competition for a contract to HUBZone-certified companies.
The United States alleged that Platinum One and Anthony Wright falsely represented to the SBA, the Navy and the Army that Platinum was controlled by a socially and economically disadvantaged individual. The government’s investigation found that Platinum One was actually controlled by Vernon J. Smith III, who is not socially or economically disadvantaged. The
government alleged that Smith used Platinum’s 8(a) status to continue Capitol Contractor’s business operations after Capitol’s own 8(a) status expired in 2002. As a result of these false representations, Platinum obtained contracts from the Navy and the Army.
The United States also alleged that Platinum One and Anthony Wright falsely represented to the SBA and other government agencies that Platinum maintained its principal office in a designated HUBZone location. In fact, Platinum actually operated out of offices owned by Capitol that were not located in a HUBZone. Platinum One did not qualify for the HUBZone program, yet because of its false statements to the SBA and the Air Force, it obtained contracts that had been set aside by the Air Force for qualified HUBZone companies.
"Those who seek to obtain government contracts intended for businesses run by socially or economically disadvantaged individuals or for companies located in areas that need jobs must play by the rules," said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. "We will take action against those who use false statements to cheat both the government and the companies and communities that should have received the valuable benefits."
"This case is one of a series that the government has pursued for false claims made to obtain HUBZone, 8(a), and other set-aside contracts. The SBA Office of Inspector General will continue to aggressively pursue and seek criminal or civil fraud prosecution of false statements made to obtain preferential contracting and other government benefits," said SBA Inspector General Peggy E. Gustafson.
"This case represents the cooperative effort of SBA’s Offices of the General Counsel and the Inspector General and the Department of Justice to uncover and remedy fraud in our procurement programs," said SBA General Counsel Sara Lipscomb.
Assistant Attorney General West thanked the Justice Department’s Civil Division, the SBA Office of General Counsel, and the SBA Office of Inspector General for the collaboration that resulted in the settlement announced today.