A former owner and officer of a large business has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges stemming from an illegal pass-through scheme.
According to a Department of Justice press release, Thomas Harper not only conspired to evade limitations on subcontracting, but obstructed justice during a SBA size protest investigation of his company’s relationship with a putative small businesses.
The DOJ press release states that Harper is the former owner and officer of MCC Construction Company. Between 2008 and 2012, MCC entered into an arrangement with two 8(a) companies. Under the arrangement, these companies were awarded set-aside contracts “with the understanding that MCC would, illegally, perform all of the work.” The scheme was successful: MCC ultimately performed 27 government contracts worth $70 million.
During the relevant time period, the GSA filed a size protest with the SBA, arguing that one of the 8(a) companies was affiliated with MCC. Then, Harper and others “took steps to corruptly influence, impede, and obstruct the SBA size determination protest by willfully and knowingly making false statements to the SBA about the extent and nature of the relationship between MCC and one of the companies.”
Earlier this year, MCC pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and agreed to pay $1,769,924 in criminal penalties and forfeiture. Now, as part of his guilty plea, Harper has personally agreed to pay $165,711 in restitution. Harper also stands to serve 10 to 16 months in prison under current federal sentencing guidelines.
The limitations on subcontracting are a cornerstone of the government’s small business set-aside programs. After all, there is no public good to be served if a small business essentially sells its certification and allows a large company like MCC to complete all of the work on a set-aside contract. Cases like that of Harper and MCC show that the SBA and DOJ are serious about cracking down on illegal pass-throughs. Hopefully, prosecutions like these will give second thoughts to others who might be tempted to break the law.