California Ceramics Company Agrees to Pay $175,000 to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations
NEWARK, N.J. – A California ceramic materials company will pay $175,000 to resolve allegations that it committed multiple False Claims Act violations relating to awards by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Army under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.
The settlement resolves allegations uncovered by the Office of Inspector General of the National Science Foundation that LoTEC Inc. (d/b/a Vesta Sciences) transferred proceeds of the awards to an undisclosed related company, loaned award funds to other related companies and to LoTEC’s principal, certified that the principal investigator for the awards was primarily employed by LoTEC when she was not, and failed to properly account for hours worked under the awards.
“Companies that contract with the federal government need to clearly and accurately disclose how they are planning to spend public money,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said. “The government relies on small businesses to research and innovate. But the government also relies on SBIR Program recipients to engage in open communications, to make clear disclosures, and to keep accurate records so that awarding agencies can oversee these important research projects.”
“The SBIR Program is a valuable tool in advancing NSF’s mission to promote the progress of science by increasing opportunities for innovative research by small businesses,” Allison Lerner, National Science Foundation Inspector General, said. “The NSF Office of Inspector General is committed to vigorously pursuing fraud, waste and abuse in the SBIR program. I commend the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our investigative partners for their strong support in this effort.”
“This settlement further demonstrates the resolve of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s (USACIDC) Major Procurement Fraud Unit and our law enforcement partners to protect and defend the assets of the United States Army,” Special Agent in Charge L. Scott Moreland, of the USACIDC’s Mid-Atlantic Fraud Field Office, said.
The civil settlement is not an admission of liability or improper conduct by LoTEC.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Meyler of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Civil Division.