Friday, November 13, 2015

Prison Time for Falsely Claiming "Service-Disabled" Status

Warren Parker falsely claimed to be a disabled veteran and war hero . He claimed to have been awarded three Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars, eleven Air Medals, a Presidential citation, and three Purple Hearts in the Vietnam War. Military records however showed that he only served in the Missouri National Guard and was never deployed outside of the Missouri.

Warren Parker, his wife Mary, and son Michael used this "stolen valor" to secure Veteran's Administration and Defense Department Contracts totaling $7.5 million that had been set aside for SDVOBs (Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses).

They were caught, plead guilty, and are now serving time in Federal prisons; Warren (who's already in his 70s) received an 87 month sentence, his wife Mary, 20 months, and his son Michael, 41 months. Its probably not where Warren and Mary expected to spend their "golden years".

In addition to the prison sentences, the Parkers will also be paying restitution of some unspecified amount. Their reputations have been destroyed - one was immediately kicked off the city planning commission. Their construction company is now referred to in the past tense.

Yet to be sentenced in the case is Thomas Whitehead who used Parker's company as an illegal pass-through for his own construction company.

Misrepresenting "status" in order to obtain Government contracts has got to be one of the dumbest procurement fraud scenarios. It seems like there is almost a 100 percent certainty of being caught. There is so much information available on the internet and in social media that it becomes difficult to maintain a ruse for any length of time. There are the unsuccessful bidders that will poke around to see if there are flaws in the procurement process so that they can appeal the award. If it involves a set-aside contract, you can be sure they will be checking up on the winning firm's qualifications. There is also risk from insiders (i.e. employees) who are ready to blow the whistle so that they can get a big payday (qui tam actions). Finally, the Government is beefing up its vetting process to reduce the occurrences of businesses falsely claiming a "status" to which they are not entitled.

As we learned from the Parker case, the consequences for falsely claiming small business, veteran-owned business, woman-owned business, minority-owned business, etc, can be swift and severe.

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