AG Files Qui Tam Suit Against Builder


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Massachusettes Attorney General Martha Coakley has filed a suit under the False Claims Act against Pittsfield area builders Petricca Construction Co. thanks to a brave whistleblower who had a contract with the builders that was not honored. The suit alleges that the contractor was awarded deals based on the contractual stipulation that minority and women owned subcontractors would be used on nine projects. For a period from 20043 to 2008 the builders filed 184 false certifications of compliance regarding the minority and women owned subcontractor agreements according to AG Coakley. Petricca is also accused of falling nearly $600,000 short of it’s obligations stemming from the subcontractor deal.

Larry Cole, the owner of Larry’s Trucking, became a whistleblower under the MA False Claims Act when he filed a complaint in December of 2009 alleging that he was cut out of his contract with Petricca. Cole alleges that he was awarded a contract as a minority owned business as per the deal that Petricca had with the state for 225 hours of trucking at $80 an hour. After 8 hours of work Larry’s Trucking was cut out of the contract in favor of a non-minority owned business that contracted at $65 an hour. While the non-minority owned trucking companies were paid $65 per hour Larry’s trucking was paid $15 an hour. Upon completion of the Adams tank project in question Petricca filed an allegedly false certification to the Commonwealth that Larry’s

Trucking had performed work valued at, and was paid, $44,785.01.

Bids are given preference in the bidding process on many Massachusetts construction projects if the bidders demonstrate good faith efforts to employ minority- and woman-owned subcontractors to fulfill participation goals. After winning a bid, contractors are required to comply with the terms of the bid in completing the project or seek a waiver of compliance. Once the project is completed a contractor must certify it has complied with all terms.

Coakley announced in a written statement that, “A contractor that wins contracts based on false pretenses puts honest contractors at an unfair competitive disadvantage. Causing the government to pay out of funds based on false representations is a breach of the public trust subject to stiff penalties under the False Claims Act.”

This situation clearly demonstrates that most if not all forms of compliance based contracts can lead to whistleblower suits. Construction projects for governments is yet another area where people involved need to be aware of potential qui tam claims.


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