Greenbelt, Maryland – Larayne Whitehead, age 34, of Clinton, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to commit wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud businesses which supplied goods under government contracts.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to her plea agreement, from December 2007 to May 2013, Whitehead and her co-conspirators used at least 15 businesses in Maryland, Delaware, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina and Tennessee which they incorporated to bid on contracts to provide goods – such as books, snowmobiles, plants and paint – to federal, state and local government agencies. Most of the contracts were awarded using an online marketplace, which contractors use to compete for federal contracts through a reverse auction process. The conspirators’ businesses often submitted extremely low bids to secure the contracts. Once awarded the contracts, Whitehead enticed victim businesses to act as subcontractors and supply the goods required by contract by providing fake references and by falsely promising that the subcontractors would be paid after the government paid Whitehead. After the subcontractors delivered the goods required by the contracts, government agencies paid Whitehead, typically by electronic transfers to bank accounts set up in the business names but controlled by Whitehead. Whitehead fraudulently retained these proceeds for her own personal benefit and did not pay the subcontractors.
The conspirators typically operated under a particular business name for a period of six to 12 months until the business was either disqualified from the online marketplace or was otherwise burdened with lawsuits or liens. The conspirators then continued the scheme under a newly-registered business name. The conspirators initially used their true names and addresses to register their businesses, but later attempted to conceal their true identities by using aliases.
Whitehead has agreed to forfeit $2,393,579 and a car.
Whitehead faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. scheduled her sentencing for January 14, 2014 at 12:00 p.m.
The National Procurement Fraud Task Force was formed in October 2006 to promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with the increase in government contracting activity for national security and other government programs. The Procurement Fraud Task Force - chaired by Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Lanny A. Breuer - includes the United States Attorneys’ Offices, the FBI, the U.S. Inspectors General community and a number of other federal law enforcement agencies. This case, as well as other cases brought by members of the Task Force, demonstrate the Department of Justice=s commitment to helping ensure the integrity of the government procurement process.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the FBI for its work in the investigation and thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Christen A. Sproule, who is prosecuting the case.