A construction contracting company and the company’s president have agreed to collectively pay $400,000 to resolve allegations they violated the False Claims Act (FCA) by circumventing small business set aside requirements in a federally funded contract.
The settlement announced today resolves allegations that C. Abbonizio Contractors Inc. and the company’s president, Peter Abbonizio, violated FCA set aside requirements that they use certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) to perform work on the contract.
The allegations were that C. Abbonizio and Peter Abbonizio falsely certified that DBE companies Sanzo Ltd. (Sanzo) and Multifacet LLC (Multifacet) were performing work on the Direct Connection Project, a federally funded New Jersey Department of Transportation project to provide infrastructure improvements to the intersection of Routes I-295, I-76, and Route 42 in Camden County, New Jersey.
According to the allegations, Sanzo and Multifacet were not actually performing work, but instead were simply billing C. Abbonizio Contractors for work performed by other vendors on the project, along with a mark-up for their participation.
U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced that the settlement resolves the complaint filed on May 29, 2020, against, C. Abbonizio Contractors which will pay $375,000, and Peter Abbonizio who will pay $25,000.
On August 23, 2019, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) debarred Sanzo, Ltd., and its owner/operator, Carol Sanzo, from participating in federally funded procurement and nonprocurement programs for a period of 3 years. On July 6, 2016, in U.S. District Court, Newark, New Jersey, Sanzo was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) pass-through fraud scheme.
Between approximately 2008 and 2012, Sanzo routinely circumvented DBE program requirements by causing contract payments from prime contractors to be routed through Sanzo, Ltd.—a certified as a DBE fuel supplier—retaining kickbacks for herself, and remitting the remainder to non-DBE subcontractors.
Sanzo also falsely represented that Sanzo, Ltd. supplied fuel on the Willis Avenue Bridge Project, knowing that a non-DBE fuel supplier actually provided those services. The Willis Avenue Bridge Project was funded by FHWA and administered by New York City DOT. The value of Sanzo, Ltd.’s purported DBE subcontract on the project was approximately $6 million.