Western New York Contractors and Two Owners to Pay More Than $3 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations
Alden, New York-based contractors, Zoladz Construction Company Inc. (ZCCI), Arsenal Contracting LLC (Arsenal), and Alliance Contracting LLC (Alliance), along with two owners, John Zoladz of Darien, New York, and David Lyons of Grand Island, New York, have agreed to pay the United States more than $3 million to settle allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by improperly obtaining federal set-aside contracts designated for service-disabled veteran-owned (SDVO) small businesses, the Justice Department announced today.
“Contracts are set aside for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses so to afford veterans with service-connected disabilities the opportunity to participate in federal contracting and gain valuable experience to help them compete for future economic opportunities,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Every time an ineligible contractor knowingly pursues and obtains such set-aside contracts, they are cheating American taxpayers at the expense of service-disabled veterans.”
To qualify as a SDVO small business, a service-disabled veteran must own and control the company. The United States alleged that Zoladz recruited a service-disabled veteran to serve as a figurehead for Arsenal, which purported to be a legitimate SDVO small business but which was, in fact, managed and controlled by Zoladz and Lyons, neither of whom is a service-disabled veteran. The United States alleged that Arsenal was a sham company that had scant employees of its own and instead relied on Alliance and ZCCI employees to function. After receiving numerous SDVO small business contracts, Arsenal is alleged to have subcontracted nearly all of the work under the contracts to Alliance, which was owned by Zoladz and Lyons, and ZCCI, which was owned by Zoladz. Neither Alliance nor ZCCI were eligible to participate in SDVO small business contracting programs. Zoladz and Lyons are alleged to have carried out their scheme by, among other things, making or causing false statements to be made to the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) regarding Arsenal’s eligibility to participate in the SDVO small business contracting program and the company’s compliance with SDVO small business requirements.
“Detecting and discontinuing fraud, waste, and abuse committed by those who do business with the government remains a core function performed in this Office,” said Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. for the Western District of New York. “That function, however, takes on additional significance when the target of the fraud is a program designed for the benefit of the heroes among us—our disabled veterans. Although this investigation did not uncover sufficient evidence to establish criminal liability by these entities and individuals, the multi-million dollar civil judgment ensures that those involved pay a heavy price for their decision to divert to themselves resources intended for the benefit of those who have made supreme sacrifices on behalf of all.”
“This settlement demonstrates the commitment of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, the Department of Justice, and other law enforcement agencies to aggressively pursue individuals and companies that misrepresent themselves as service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses and deny legitimate disabled veterans the opportunity to obtain VA set-aside contracts,” said Inspector General, Michael J. Missal of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General (OIG). “The VA OIG will continue to work diligently to protect the integrity of this important program, which is designed to aid disabled veterans. I also want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners in this effort.”
“The contracting companies and principals allowed greed to corrupt a federal process intended to benefit service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses,” said Special Agent in Charge Adam S. Cohen of FBI Buffalo Field Office. “The FBI and our partners will continue to identify and investigate companies and individuals who target these types of programs for personal gain.”
The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private individuals to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery. The civil lawsuit was filed in the Western District of New York and is captioned United States ex rel. Western New York Foundation for Fair Contracting, Inc. v. Arsenal Contracting, LLC, et al., Case No. 11-CV-0821(S) (W.D.N.Y.). As part of today’s resolution, the whistleblower will receive $450,000.
“This case is yet another example of the tremendous results achieved through the joint efforts of the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Department of Justice, and partner agencies to uncover and forcefully respond to fraud in Federal Government contracting programs, such as the Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Program in this case,” said Christopher M. Pilkerton, General Counsel of the SBA. “Identifying and aggressively pursuing instances of civil fraud by participants in these procurement programs is one of SBA’s top priorities.”
“Providing false statements to gain access to federal contracts set aside for service-disabled veterans denies the government opportunities to meet its abiding commitment to our nation’s veterans,” said Acting SBA Inspector General Hannibal “Mike” Ware. “The SBA’s Office of the Inspector General is committed to bringing those that lie to gain access to SBA’s preferential contracting programs to justice. I want to thank the Department of Justice for its leadership and dedication to serving justice.”
“There is an obvious need and reason for service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses in the government contracting process,” said Director Frank Robey of the Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID), Major Procurement Fraud Unit. “Special Agents from Army CID will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to make every contribution possible to bring persons to justice who violate that process.”
This matter was investigated by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York, the FBI, the VA’s Office of Inspector General, the SBA’s Office of Inspector General, and Army CID.
The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.