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Turnpike Contractor Charge with Fraud by Falsely Claiming Credit for Using Disadvantaged Business Entities

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Trenton NJ, just days after the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway , the Justice Department  sued a Gloucesster County construction company for allegedly defrauding the United States by falsely claiming credit for using disadvantaged business entities, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Eligibility Guidelines (in general):

Ownership– Your business must be 51% owned by a socially and economically disadvantaged individual(s).

“Disadvantaged”– You may be eligible if you are a member of a group of persons the Department considers as disadvantaged. The Department presumes certain groups are disadvantaged, including women, Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans, Subcontinent Asian-Pacific Americans, or other minorities found to be disadvantaged by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Persons who are not members of one of the above groups and own and control their business may also be eligible if they establish their “social” and “economic” disadvantage. The Department notes, for example, that people with disabilities have disproportionately low incomes and high rates of unemployment, and that many may be socially and economically disadvantaged. A determination of whether an individual with a disability meets DBE eligibility criteria is made on a case-by-case basis. More information on how social and economic disadvantage is determined can be found

C. Abbonizio Contractors Inc., a company based in Sewell, allegedly defrauded the government by claiming to use disadvantaged entities when those entities were not actually used to perform work.

Companies performing federally funded work on New Jersey transportation projects sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) are required to utilize disadvantaged business entities (DBE) for a specified percentage of the work, and are required to certify their use of these entities.

According to the complaint filed today in U.S. District Court:

Abbonizio Contractors obtained a $39 million subcontract from PKF Mark III, the prime contractor on the Direct Connection Project, a federally funded reconfiguration of the interchanges of Routes I-295, I-76, and Route 42 in Camden County. PKF Mark III was required to perform 15 percent of the work with DBE contractors, and Abbonizio Contractors assumed that requirement as part of its subcontract. Abbonizio Contractors and its president, Peter Abbonizio, improperly claimed credit for using DBE to perform work on the project by reporting to PKF Mark III the use of DBE that did not actually perform work. The scheme involved hiring DBE not to perform work, but merely to fraudulently invoice work as their own that was actually performed by other companies, in violation of the contract and federal regulations.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General under the direction of Acting Inspector General Howard R. Elliot, and agents of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Office of the Inspector General under Acting Inspector General Michael Farbiarz, with the investigation leading to the filing of this civil fraud complaint.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark C. Orlowski of the U.S. Attorney’s Government Fraud Unit in Newark.

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