Tulsa, Oklahoma-based contractor Ross Group Construction Corporation (Ross Group), and its corporate affiliates, have agreed to pay over $2.8 million to settle allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by improperly obtaining federal set-aside contracts reserved for disadvantaged small businesses, the Justice Department announced this week.
To qualify as a small business for purposes of U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) programs, companies must meet defined eligibility criteria, including requirements concerning size, ownership, and operational control. The settlement with Ross Group resolves allegations that the company fraudulently induced the government to award certain small business set-aside contracts to several affiliated entities that did not meet eligibility requirements.
The government alleged that Ross Group created two companies, PentaCon LLC and C3 LLC, to obtain small business set-aside contracts for which Ross Group itself was ineligible. Also alleged was that Ross Group maintained operational control over the day-to-day and long-term management decisions of the two purported small businesses, including controlling their financial affairs and business operations, and that, as a result, neither PentaCon nor C3 satisfied the size and eligibility requirements to participate in the set-aside programs. Ross Group, PentaCon, and C3 allegedly concealed their affiliation from the government and knowingly misrepresented the eligibility of PentaCon and C3 for the set-aside contracts.
The settlement with Ross Group and its corporate affiliates resolves a lawsuit filed under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act, which permits private parties to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims and share in a portion of the government’s recovery. The civil lawsuit was filed in federal district court in the Western District of Oklahoma and is captioned United States ex rel. Southwind Construction Services, LLC v. The Ross Group Construction Corporation, et al., Case No. 15-0102-R (W.D. Okla.). As part of the resolution of this matter, the whistleblower will receive approximately $520,000.
The settlement is the result of a coordinated effort among the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma, DCIS, the Inspector General Offices of the SBA, General Services Administration, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Army Criminal Investigation Division Major Procurement Fraud Unit.
The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.