Williams Brothers Construction Inc. (WBCI) of Peoria Heights, Illinois, has agreed to pay $1 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by misrepresenting its use of a small disadvantaged business to obtain a federally-funded construction contract, the Department of Justice announced today.
“The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program of the Department of Transportation creates important opportunities for small businesses to participate in construction projects paid for with federal funds,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “We will hold accountable those who misrepresent their compliance with program requirements to obtain taxpayer funds to which they are not entitled, and thereby undermine the program’s goal of supporting small businesses.”
The settlement resolves claims arising from WBCI’s construction of a new terminal building at the Peoria International Airport using Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grant funds. The FAA grant required the use of disadvantaged business enterprises for part of the construction. The United States contends that WBCI knowingly made false representations regarding its plans to use a disadvantaged small firm on the project and then falsified documents to make it appear that an eligible business did window, glazing, and curtain wall work. Instead, WBCI allegedly used that business only as a pass-through and had the work done by an ineligible company.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to protect taxpayer dollars,” said U.S. Attorney John C. Milhiser for the Central District of Illinois. “In cases such as this, we work alongside the Civil Division at the Department of Justice and with the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General to ensure that funds designated to support disadvantaged small businesses are used for their intended purpose and benefit.”
“The settlement reached today is a step on the way to closing the chapter on this egregious fraud scheme involving a federally funded construction project at Peoria International Airport,” said Andrea M. Kropf, Regional Special Agent-in-Charge of the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (DOT OIG). “While the damage to the integrity of DOT’s DBE program in this instance cannot be undone, it only serves to strengthen our resolve in pursuing those whose actions prevent the legitimate participation of disadvantaged businesses in federal contracting on transportation projects.”
The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort by the Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois, and DOT OIG. To learn more about the Civil Division, please visit https://www.justice.gov/civil. To learn more about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Central District of Illinois, please visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-cdil.
The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.