DBE Fraud After Exceeding PNW
AUSTIN – U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff of the Western District of Texas announced today that Muniz Concrete and Contracting, Inc. (“Muniz Concrete”) and its owner, Jose Juan Muniz, have agreed to pay $188,879.59 to resolve allegations they violated the False Claims Act by falsely certifying their compliance with certain requirements of the Department of Transportation’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (“DBE”) program.
The DBE program is designed to remedy ongoing discrimination and the continuing effects of past discrimination in federally assisted highway, transit, airport, and highway safety financial assistance transportation contracts. Only small businesses that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals may participate in the program.
The United States alleged that Jose Muniz was no longer “economically disadvantaged” beginning in 2017, when his personal net worth exceeded the threshold to qualify as a DBE. According to the United States, Jose Muniz made several false certifications concerning his personal net worth after 2017 so that Muniz Concrete could obtain federally assisted DBE contracts awarded by the City of Austin and the Capital Metropolitan Transit Authority.
The civil settlement of these allegations includes the resolution of claims brought under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act by Mark Williamson. Under those provisions, a private party can file an action on behalf of the United States and receive a portion of any recovery. The qui tam case is captioned United States ex rel. Williamson v. Muniz Concrete & Contracting, Inc., et al., 1:20-cv-00530-LY (W.D. Tex.).
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Parnham represented the United States in this matter, with the assistance of the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General and the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.
The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.