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Press Release

Two Former Pittsburgh Residents Plead Guilty in Rent-A-Vet Construction Fraud Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Pennsylvania

PITTSBURGH, Pa.- Two residents of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of executing a major fraud scheme against the United States, United States Attorney Eric G. Olshan announced today.

Edward DiGorio Jr., 65, and Edward Kessler, 68, each pleaded guilty to two counts before United States District Judge William S. Stickman IV. Both DiGorio and Kessler formerly resided in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that DiGorio and Kessler were the owners of two construction companies, ADDVETCO, Inc., and Hi-Def Contracting, Inc., operating in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and formed for the purpose of bidding on and acquiring “set-aside” contracts issued by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to small businesses owned and operated by service-disabled veterans of the U.S. military and pre-certified by the VA as Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses (SDVOBs). Neither DiGorio nor Kessler had served in the military, nor were they service-disabled. In a classic “Rent-A-Vet” scheme, DiGorio and Kessler paid service-disabled veterans to falsely represent themselves as the primary owners and operators of ADDVETCO and Hi-Def, and to falsely attest to ownership of the companies on critical documents submitted to the VA as part of the SDVOB certification process. During the period 2007 to 2018, ADDVETCO and Hi-Def were awarded 67 contracts that were intended for SDVOBs, 50 of which were valued at $1 million or more. All said contracts were performed in full by ADDVETCO and Hi-Def. The two charges to which DiGorio and Kessler pleaded guilty relate to the two most recent contracts awarded to the companies, for which the defendants received more than $400,000 in profits.

Judge Stickman scheduled sentencing for both defendants for July 11, 2024. The law provides for a maximum total sentence of up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $1 million, or both, at each count. Under the federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorney Carolyn J. Bloch is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of DiGorio and Kessler.

Updated March 15, 2024

Financial Fraud