WESTCHESTER, N.Y. The president and owner of a construction company involved in building the Cross Westchester Expressway was indicted for mail fraud Thursday after falsely claiming to have supplied $6 million worth of steel to the project, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Officials charge that Yona Jimenez was part of a scheme to mislead the government into believing that Jimenez's Global Marine Construction Supply was supplying steel to the project as part of the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program.
The DBE Program seeks to include minority and women-owned business in work on public construction projects, where they have been traditionally left out, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
The conduct alleged in this case makes a travesty of the DBE Program, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. Contractors in Westchester County and throughout the Southern District of New York should hear the message that we will not tolerate corruption in our public works.
Officials said that Jimenez falsely claimed Global Marine Construction Supply was supplying $6,034,750 worth of steel to the project from June 2006 to October 2009. Jimenez knew, officials said, that the steel that was supplied actually came from a different company that is not considered a disadvantaged business enterprise.
Two checks would then be issued: a two-party check to Global Marine Construction Supply and the actual steel supplier for 99 percent of the steel's cost and a separate check to Jimenez's company for one percent of the steel's cost.
DBE regulations stipulate that companies must perform a commercially useful function in the execution of a contract, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Those functions include performing, managing and supervising the work involved and furnishing supervision, labor and equipment to perform the work.
The rules also expressly provide that a DBE does not perform a commercially useful function if its role is limited to that of an extra participant in a transaction, contract, or project through which funds are passed in order to obtain the appearance of DBE participation, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Jimenez faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.
DBE fraud harms the integrity of the DBE program and law-abiding contractors, including many small businesses, by defeating efforts to ensure a level playing field in which all firms can compete fairly for contracts, U.S. Department of Transportation Special Agent-in-Charge Douglas Shoemaker said.
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