8(a) Fraud: Guilty Plea In Pass-Through Case

A California man faces up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to 8(a) fraud charges.

According to a Department of Justice press release, Wesley Burnett admitted that his non-8(a) companies performed all of the work required under various 8(a) set-aside contracts.  And if the pass-through scheme wasn’t enough, Burnett also admitted to falsely self-certifying his companies as SDVOSBs and SDBs, resulting in additional unjustified contract awards.

In 2010, Burnett met Yogesh Patel, who owned a certified 8(a) company.  Burnett and Patel agreed that Patel’s company would bid on 8(a) set-aside contracts, and that the work on those contracts would be performed by Burnett’s non-8(a) companies.  In exchange for the “pass through” use of his 8(a) certification, Burnett agreed to pay Patel approximately 4.5% of the total value of the 8(a) contracts.

Between 2010 and 2013, Patel’s company was awarded $1.8 million in 8(a) set-aside contracts.  Burnett’s companies performed all of the work under these contracts, while Patel’s 8(a) company simply served as a pass-through.  Patel previously pleaded guilty to criminal charges for his role in the scheme, and is scheduled to be sentenced in January.

Burnett’s pass-through scheme with Patel was not Burnett’s only foray into the world of procurement fraud.  In his plea, Burnett admitted that he had similar arrangements with another 8(a) company and with a SDVOSB.  Neither company is identified by name in the DOJ’s press release.

In addition to the three pass-through relationships, Burnett admitted that his companies falsely self-certified as SDVOBSs and SDBs at various points over a seven-year period, beginning in 2007.  These false certifications resulted in more than $500,000 in unjustified contract awards.

Burnett has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges, and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.  He will be sentenced in February.

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