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Source : Flickr
February 25, 2022
Author : Christina Cyr
On Wednesday, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, Vanessa Waldref, and Carla Freeman, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York, announced that TriMark USA agreed upon the resolution of allegations that its subsidiaries, improperly manipulated federal small business set-aside contracts around the country. Former TriMark executive in charge of the company’s government business Kimberly Rimsza has also agreed to pay an additional $100,000 as a civil penalty for her connection with the scheme.
“This case demonstrates a shocking disregard for fair competition, small business rules, and integrity in government contracting,” United States Attorney Waldref said. “We insisted that both TriMark and former company executive Kimberley Rimsza admit and accept responsibility for their conduct, which included improperly obtaining contracts that were meant for legitimate small businesses, and affirmatively concealing TriMark’s role in the sham contracts. The fact that the money they were stealing was intended for service-disabled veterans is simply unconscionable. Conduct of this kind is antithetical to a safe and strong Eastern Washington.”
“The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General is committed to identifying and stopping those individuals who misappropriate an opportunity meant solely for our nation’s veterans with disabilities,” said Inspector General Michael J. Missal.
“I want to recognize Special Agent in Charge Christopher Algieri of our Northeast Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Jason Root of our Northwestern Field Office for their leadership on this investigation. We appreciate the exhaustive efforts of our law enforcement partners and both U.S. Attorney’s Offices in this collaborative effort”, Inspector General Missa addedl.
TriMark provides kitchen and foodservice equipment to government customers around the world.
Because of TriMark and Riszma’s actions, federal agencies improperly awarded government set-aside contracts between 2011 and 2021.
TriMark and Rimsza admitted that when the contracts were awarded, TriMark Gill Marketing, rather than the small businesses, typically did all the work, while the small business served as the face of the contract. The small business status was used to obtain the set-aside contracts and bill the government for the work.
TriMark also admitted having TriMark Gill Marketing identify the set-aside contract opportunities for the small businesses to bid on using their set-aside status. TriMark Gill instructed the small business to prepare the bids and what prices to propose and “ghostwrote” emails for those companies to send to government officials to seem as if the small business was doing the work that TriMark Gill Marketing was actually doing.
According to the Department of Justice, TriMark admitted that Gill Marketing employees had access to one of the company’s email accounts and used them to conduct business with the government on behalf of that business.
“TriMark and one of its former top executives are paying a steep price for obtaining contracts intended for service-disabled veterans,” United States Attorney Freedman said. “This settlement demonstrates the federal government’s commitment to ensuring the integrity of its business partners, and the serious consequences for depriving legitimate small businesses of the opportunities that the government has allocated to them.”
According to court documents, the case began in May 2019, when a whistleblower, a company known as Fox Unlimited Enterprises, LLP, filed a qui tam complaint under seal in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. When a whistleblower files a qui tam complaint, the False Claims Act requires the United States to investigate the allegations and decide whether to intervene and take over the action or allow the relator to go forward with litigation.
In this case, according to court documents, the United States intervened in December 2021, which led to a settlement. According to the settlement agreement, the relator will receive $10,912,500 of the settlement amount paid by TriMark.
Photo via Flickr.