KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A couple has been convicted of defrauding the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other government agencies according to a release from the Department of Justice.
Ricky and Katrina Lanier, 55 and 49, of LaGrange, N.C., were convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and major fraud against the United States. Rickey Lanier has been sentenced to 48 months and Katrina Lanier has been sentenced to 24 months. After their incarceration, they will be on supervised release for one year.
According to the release from the DOJ, the Laniers conspired from 2005 to 2013 to fraudulently obtain federal contracts that were supposed to be given to businesses lawfully participating in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) program and the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 8(a) Business Development program.
Ricky Lainer claimed a friend, who was a disabled veteran, was the owner and involved in the day-to-day management of Kylee Construction. The friend was working for a government contractor in Afghanistan at the time.
The Laniers also used a business run by Ricky Lanier’s college roommate, JMR Investments, as a front to obtain construction contracts from the National Park Service and other federal agencies under the 8(a) program.
They received a contract to replace a wastewater treatment facility at the Tremont Institute in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The pair falsely represented the costs by over $400,000. This resulted in them receiving $1.1 million for the work despite it only costing $550,000.
“The defendants’ conduct was especially egregious,” said United States Attorney Francis M. Hamilton III. “Of course, the dollar value of the government contracts was quite high, and the defendants obtained enormous personal gains to maintain a lavish lifestyle. More importantly, not only did the defendants steal from the United States, they stole opportunities from scores of honest deserving entities such as legitimate service-disabled veteran-owned businesses who are trying to making a living in the civilian sector after having served the nation honorably.”
According to the DOJ, Kylee Construction was awarded over $5 million in government contracts and JMR Investments was awarded over $9 million in government contracts. In total, the Laniers received almost $3 million from the scheme according to the DOJ.
They also fraudulently obtained a $1.3 million construction contract at the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center. This contract had been set aside for service-disabled veteran-owned businesses.
The DOJ explains that the Laniers used the money gained from government contracts to pay for “extravagant vacations; monthly payments on a personal private airplane; a Mercedes Benz; mortgage payments for their personal residence; purchases of additional real estate; and purchases of personal property such as shoes, clothing, food, and souvenirs while on vacation.”
“Illegally obtaining federal contracts steals taxpayer dollars and opportunities from the nation’s small business community,” said SBA OIG’s Eastern Region Special Agent in Charge Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite. “OIG is committed to rooting out bad actors and protecting the integrity of SBA programs. I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners for their dedication and pursuit of justice.”
Chief Judge McDonough also ordered forfeiture of the couple’s bank accounts. The ruling on a money judgment has been deferred until a later date.