Chicago subcontractor sentenced to 1-year prison term for DBE fraud scheme

Dive Brief:

  • A Chicago subcontractor has been sentenced to 12 months in prison for her role in a multimillion-dollar woman- and minority-owned business scheme, according to The Chicago Tribune.
  • Elizabeth Perino's two companies received the lion's share of $40 million in subcontracts for major public works projects but did not actually perform the work, submitting false invoices instead. The owner of the company, Diamond Coring, that used Perino to meet its hiring requirements cooperated as a prosecution witness and received two years of probation.
  • Perino's attorneys requested home confinement and probation, but U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman sentenced her to prison to set an example for what he said was "an industry that needs to clean up its act." 

Dive Insight:

Perino was convicted last June of four counts of fraud but claimed the Diamond Coring owner had set her up in order to win the favor of prosecutors who were investigating him in another case of minority contracting fraud.

A general contractor, McHugh Construction, paid $12 million in 2014 to settle its role in the whistleblower case but admitted no wrongdoing. McHugh also agreed to independent monitoring of its subcontracting procedures for three years and donated $2 million to a Chicago disadvantaged business program.

Cases of disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) fraud are common in the construction industry, and it often takes a whistleblower to reveal the criminal activity.

That was the circumstance in New York last October when five school contractors agreed to pay $825,000 for allegedly using minority firms to submit false documentation that they'd provided services as part of the Rochester City School District's $1.3 billion school modernization program. A whistleblower alleged that from 2012 to 2014, the five companies actually purchased those materials and subcontractor services from non-certified firms but paid the non-certified firms to assert they had done so.

Some prosecutors, however, don't give the accused a chance to settle their charges by paying fines. South Carolina authorities alleged that seven executives from two companies set up a web of bogus minority and disadvantaged contractors so that they could win $350 million in government contracts over a period of several years. Prosecutors claim that the group operated their own shell companies and recruited minority firms to help them in their fraud as well. The individuals face up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $10 million.

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Filed Under: Legal/Regulation
Top image credit: Wikimedia