The intention is pure (though some may think misguided) – give small companies owned by women and minorities a leg up in the highly competitive bidding for government contracts.
But in practice, programs that require a portion of federal, state or local contracts to go to what are called disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) are often ripe for abuse because monitoring them is so inconsistent.
Minority-contract scammers tend to stay out of the big time to avoid scrutiny, sticking to highway construction and other infrastructure projects.
But in what may be the mother of all high-profile DBE hustles, the head of a Canadian steel company that won almost $1 billion in contracts to work on the World Trade Center was convicted yesterday in New York of wire fraud and conspiracy, according to the AP.
It took a Manhattan jury just a day to convict 65-year-old Larry David, CEO of Ontario-based DCM Erectors Inc., of using two companies – one headed by an Ecuadorian man, the other by a woman – to show that he was subcontracting work to minority firms when, in fact, DCM was doing all the work itself.
Preet Bahara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement, “The construction work awarded to Davis came with the obligation to employ minority and women-owned businesses, an obligation that Davis shirked and then lied about. We cannot allow major public projects – particularly ones on the sacred World Trade Center site – to be built on a foundation of fraud.”
David is facing a possible 20 years in prison, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.