Illinois Contractor Williams Brothers Settles False-Claims Case With Justice Dept.
Firm was accused of using subcontractors that were not really disadvantaged businesses on airport project
Williams Brothers Construction, Inc., of Peoria Heights, Ill., has agreed to pay $1 million to resolve allegations that it violated the federal False Claims Act by misrepresenting its use of a small disadvantaged business to obtain a federally funded construction grant used on the $65-million new terminal building at Peoria International Airport, completed in 2011.
A $1.4-million Federal Aviation Administration grant won by the airport authority required the use of disadvantaged business enterprises for part of the construction of the new 125,000-sq-ft terminal. Federal prosecutors contended that Williams Brothers 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 performed window, glazing and curtain wall work. The government alleged that the contractor used that business only as a pass-through and instead utilized an ineligible company to perform the glazing work. The complaint did not identify the small firm or the company that did the work.
"The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise 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 Justice Dept.’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 all federal and state allegations against Williams Brothers, and there has been no determination of liability, according to records.
“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, the regional special agent-in-charge of the DOT office of inspector general. “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.”
A call to Williams Brothers by ENR was not returned by press time.
Note: An earlier version of this story referred to a separate renovation project completed in 2016. That project did not receive federal funding and Williams Brothers was not involved in it.