Ram Hingorani and Ronald Waugh were charged with felony fraud last year for allegedly nabbing $23.4 million worth of government construction contracts that were meant for disabled war veterans. The case is now going to jury trial, and the two men could face lengthy prison sentences if convicted.
The two men entered not guilty pleas last year for 32 counts of felony fraud and money laundering charges. Prosecutors say the men bid on construction contracts through their company, Midwest Contracting, to the Department of Veterans Affairs in Des Moines, Iowa. Reports suggest that Midwest Contracting won contracts for 45 construction projects that were designed specifically for disabled veterans. In 1999, the U.S. Congress established a goal of making 3% of all government construction projects intended for disabled veterans.
Defense attorneys representing Hingorani and Waugh argue that the Veteran Affairs office was happy with the work conducted by its clients and there was no intent to disrupt, manipulate, or otherwise harm the government in any way, shape or form.
Midwest Contracting was founded by Hingorani and Waugh back in 2007. According to the federal indictment, Waugh submitted a claims form to the VA for hearing loss from his time as a servicemen in the Vietnam War.
“The government intends to present evidence that (Midwest Contracting) and (Midwest Paving) have the same executive and employees and shared the same office space. In fact, the evidence will show that Midwest Contracting Inc. had little to no assets, employees or overhead. The sole purpose of [the company] was to secure government contracts that Hingorani, would not otherwise be entitled to,” said prosecutors.
Defense attorneys, however, responded by saying that this case, at the very worst, is nothing more than a contractual dispute that found its way into a federal courtroom.
“This case is, at the very worst, an ordinary regulatory or contractual dispute that mistakenly found its way into a criminal courtroom. The VA’s verification corroborated the defendants’ well-supported and good-faith belief that [their company] complied with the [disabled veterans] program,” wrote defense attorneys in their clients’ brief.
Unfortunately, cases such as this are becoming all too common. Bogus companies are often created for the sole purpose of winning government contracts, but this case goes one step further by focusing on government contracts for disabled veterans. If claims that the VA were happy with the defendants’ work turns out to be true, however, it will be interesting to see how this case plays out.