Prosecutors in the state of New York have recovered more than $1.8m from a construction consultancy that fraudulently inflated bills for cost estimating and scheduling services on public-works projects in New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.
V.J. Associates Inc. of Suffolk and its affiliates (VJA) admitted to padding out its bills from 2013 to 2018 on public works projects for government entities including the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, New York City’s School Construction Authority, and others.
It is debarred from public works projects in New York State for five years.
New York Attorney General Letitia James said VJA billed for hours that were excessive and unnecessary and hours its employees worked on unrelated projects.
"V.J. Associates padded hours and bilked our state’s taxpayers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars for hours they never worked," she said.
"Not only are we now recovering the ill-gotten gains of these fraudsters, but we are ensuring that V.J. Associates cannot bid on or be awarded another public-works contract with the state for at least five years. New Yorkers can always rely on my office to fight to protect their tax dollars."
The investigation began after a whistleblower filed a complaint under the New York False Claims Act, the Federal False Claims Act, and similar statutes in Massachusetts and New Jersey. New York’s False Claims Act allows private persons to file civil actions on behalf of the government and to share in any recovery.
Of the $1,875,000 recovered from VJA, $1,658,020 will go to New York State.
Commenting on the case, MTA Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny said: "Riders and taxpayers have a right to know that unscrupulous contractors will not rip off hard-earned tax dollars and fares dedicated to our public transportation system.
"Executives at V.J. Associates padded their invoices to the MTA in a failed attempt to steal precious dollars from New Yorkers. I am grateful to our law enforcement partners at the New York attorney general’s office and pleased these individuals have been held accountable."
The recovery is part of a multistate agreement between VJA and New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.
Participating in the investigation were the Office of the Inspector General of the MTA, the Office of the Inspector General of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the New York City Law Department, and the Offices of the Attorneys General of Massachusetts and New Jersey.
Image: Â©GCR, illustration by Denis Carrier