A US businessman has pleaded guilty in a case involving the fraudulent winning of federal government construction contracts intended for companies run by women, ethnic minorities, former servicemen and disabled people.
Thomas Brock, 51, of Camden, South Carolina, admitted that he misrepresented his businesses to win work worth almost $350m.
The government is also prosecuting Brock’s wife, Tory, as well as four business associates and a former lover.
According to an indictment filed in March 2017, the Brocks and their co-defendants concealed the fact that the companies bidding were not controlled by any of the categories of people eligible for preferential treatment.
Statements filed in federal court also allege that Brock married his wife so he could use her status as an Air Force veteran with a service-connected disability to set up a construction company that applied for federal contracts.
Brock, who is white, was also accused of using an African-American friend as a figurehead in another construction company he set up.
The scam ran from the early 2000s to about 2013, and all the contracts were carried out.
Prosecutors told the judge that Brock spent some of his profits from them on buying condominiums, a hair salon for a friend and "large acreages" in Kershaw, the South Carolina county that contains Camden. Brock also spent more than $500,000 on renovating his house.
Brock faced charges of conspiracy to defraud the government, which carries a maximum penalty of $250,000 and five years’ imprisonment, as well as wire fraud, which has a maximum penalty of 20 years and a $250,000 fine.
In a deal with federal prosecutors, Brock pleaded guilty to one specific count of wire fraud, which alleged that on 3 May 2013 he conducted a wire transfer in the amount of $875,000 from a bank account in New York to another bank account in South Carolina. He also agreed to make full restitution to the amount determined by the court.
The plea agreement was actually reached in April last year, however Brock later changed his mind and pled not guilty, before changing his mind again at the end of last month.
Brock will be sentenced in December. The other accused were sentenced to probation, apart from two business associates, who received prison sentences of two years and six years. According to US attorney DeWayne Pearson, Brock is likely to face up to nine years in prison.
Image: Kershaw town hall. Brock was accused of buying "large acreages" in the county (Town of Kershaw)