On Thursday, June 6, 2013, the Justice Department announced that a number of related entities and individuals agreed to pay $2,883,947 to resolve allegations that they exploited the Department of Transportation’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program. These entities are Dayton-based TesTech, Inc., its owner, Sherif Aziz, as well as CESO Testing Technology, Inc., CESO International, LLC, and CESO, Inc. (collectively CESO), and their owners, David and Shery Oakes. According to the Government’s lawsuit, the defendants falsely claimed disadvantaged business status on a number of federally-funded transportation projects.
The DBE program encourages the employment of businesses owned by minorities and women on federally-funded transportation projects. Contractors on such projects must make good-faith attempts to meet DBE participation goals as a condition of federal funding. People who falsely claim credits under the program to obtain federal funds harm both the businesses that the program is designed to assist as well as the American taxpayer.
The whistleblower in this case, Ryan Parker, was a former employee of TesTech. Having credible knowledge that the company and its owner were engaging in fraudulent activity, Mr. Parker filed a qui-tam lawsuit under the False Claims Act. As a result of this action, he will receive $562,370 of the settlement amount.
There are a number of Government programs that provide funding and other benefits to support businesses owned by minorities and women. Such programs, however, are a constant source of fraud, waste, and abuse. We all owe a debt of gratitude to brave whistleblowers like Mr. Parker that risk their livelihoods to expose wrongdoing when they see it and make sure Government funding continues to flow to those groups that it was intended to benefit and that need it most.
If you have information on Government programs fraud, do not hesitate to act. For more information on how to file your qui tam lawsuit, please call (202) 973-0900 or fill out a Confidential Case Evaluation form.