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Watchdog: Accountability

Fraud, kickbacks in disabled veteran-owned business scam draws prison term

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Crime,Watchdog,Mark Flatten,Waste and Fraud,Accountability,Veterans,Federal Courts

A Virginia man was sentenced Friday to 16 months in prison for conspiring with federal procurement officers to gain more than $33 million in contracts using his company's status as a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business.

Anthony Bilby, 40, of Leesburg, paid kickbacks to gain inside information as to how much Customs and Border Protection officials were willing to pay for a technology contract worth $24 million.

He also helped write procurement documents to justify limiting competition on a separate $4 million CBP contract to ensure it was only available to SDVOSB-certified firms, according to court documents.

Bilby was a sales representative for two closely related SDVOSBs. He also conspired with a third firm to ensure it submitted inflated bids to make it appear the jobs were competitively bid.

After the Bilby-affiliated companies won both awards, one of them issued a $351,176 check to a business co-owned by the two CBP officials who supplied him with inside information, according to court records.

No other indictments have been issued in the case, and a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office that prosecuted the case would not say whether the investigation remains open.

The federal contracting officers were not identified, nor were the companies involved in the conspiracy.

The SDVOSB program is supposed to help veterans with service-connected disabilities by giving them a preference in bidding on federal contracts.

But as the Washington Examiner reported in a five-part series published in August 2013, the program is highly vulnerable to fraud.

In 2008, Bilby drafted portions of internal documents related to the $4 million CBP contract at the request of an agency contracting officer’s technical representative, identified in court documents only as “M.R.”

The document Bilby wrote was a justification for limiting competition to only SDVOSBs.

Bilby also conspired with an unrelated company to submit a bogus bid to make it appear the one turned in by the firm he represented was a better deal, according to court records.

One of the Bilby-related companies was awarded the contract in September 2008.

A year later, “M.R.” was informed by a supervisor that CBP would be issuing a much larger technology contract. “M.R.” relayed details of the planned procurement to Bilby.

In August 2009, Bilby sent a market research and acquisition plan to “M.R.” to justify limiting competition to SDVOSBs.

The document Bilby drafted was to be incorporated into the procurement package to justify the restricted bidding.

Bilby agreed to pay 10 percent of his affiliated company’s profits to a business owned by two CBP contract employees who worked for “M.R.”

Over the next month, Bilby used his connections inside CBP to gain access to internal procurement plans, including internal estimates that the office would be willing to pay more than $24 million for the technology contract.

A Bilby-affiliated company won the award with a bid of $24.1 million. Another “friendly” SDVOSB also turned in a losing bid of $26.7 million, again to make it appear the procurement process was competitive.

Bilby pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges in December. In addition to prison time, he was sentenced to two years of supervised released and ordered to forfeit more than $1 million, which represents his personal earnings from the conspiracy.

In addition to defrauding CBP, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, Bilby conspired to have an unrelated company submit a bogus bid on an EPA contract in 2007.

The Examiner series showed SDVOSB contracts are “highly vulnerable to fraud and abuse” because of lax federal controls and verification requirements, according to a series of investigations by the Government Accountability Office and various inspectors general.

About $12.3 billion in federal contracts went to firms claiming the preference in 2012. Federal investigators have found multiple instances in which the owners of SDVOSBs were not service disabled, or in some cases not even veterans.

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Author:

Mark Flatten

Senior Watchdog Reporter
The Washington Examiner