A former operator of a local construction company, Patriot Company, Inc., was sentenced in federal court recently for his role in a “rent-a-vet” scheme to fraudulently obtain more than $13.7 million in federal contracts.
Jeffrey K. Wilson, 53, of the Village of Loch Lloyd in Belton, Mo., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Howard F. Sachs to 18 months in federal prison without parole. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Wilson has also consented to the federal civil forfeiture of approximately $2.1 million.
On Jan. 31, 2018, Wilson pleaded guilty to one count of government program fraud. Co-defendant Paul R. Salavitch, 57, of Kansas City, Mo., pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of making a false writing and awaits sentencing.
Wilson, who is not a veteran, managed the day-to-day operations and the long-term decision making of Patriot Company from September 2005 to January 2014. Wilson and Salavitch falsely certified that Salavitch, who is a service-disabled veteran, was involved in the day-to-day operations of Patriot Company. Salavitch’s purported active management qualified Patriot Company to obtain set-aside contracts to which it was not entitled.
Wilson admitted he used Salavitch’s veteran and service-disabled veteran status in a “rent-a-vet” scheme to obtain 20 government contracts for which Patriot Company received more than $13.7 million. As a result of the fraud scheme, legitimate veteran-owned-and-run businesses were not awarded these contracts. In one instance, according to court documents, Wilson brazenly challenged the government’s award of a set-aside contract to a service-disabled veteran bidder and Patriot Company fraudulently obtained that contract.
Wilson’s plea agreement cites 20 contracts with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Army, which were fraudulently obtained by Wilson, Salavitch and Patriot Company. The contracts, which ranged as high as $4.3 million, included construction projects in Missouri, South Dakota, Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Michigan, Indiana, Tennessee, Iowa, Illinois and North Dakota.
In September 2013, the Veterans Administration conducted an unannounced site visit of Patriot Company. The site inspector discovered that Salavitch was working 40 miles away at his full-time job as a federal employee with the Department of Defense in Leavenworth, Kan.
Wilson did not stop violating the law even after the government’s site visit. Instead, Wilson and Salavitch fought cancellation of Patriot Company’s status. In November 2013, Salavitch falsely certified to the Missouri Division of Purchasing and Materials Management that Patriot Company was a legitimate service-disabled veteran-owned small business when he knew it was not because he did not actively run the company. In December 2013, the Veterans Administration de-certified Patriot Company.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stacey Perkins Rock, Curt Bohling and Jane Pansing Brown. It was investigated by the Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General – Criminal Investigation Division and the General Services Administration – Office of Inspector General.