Two plead guilty to Air Force housing contract fraud, US says


By MB Pell

(Reuters) – Two former employees of Balfour Beatty Communities, one of the largest private landlords in the U.S. military, have pleaded guilty to fraud for helping the company get millions in bonuses while covering poor terms of housing at several Air Force bases, the Justice Department announced.

Two years ago, Reuters reports described how Balfour Beatty employees tampered with maintenance documents at Air Force bases to help the company qualify for incentive payouts, citing five former employees who said they tampered with records, company emails and internal Air Force communications. Soldiers and their families were exposed to asbestos, vermin, mold and raw sewage.

The reports sparked an investigation by the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations and the Inspector General’s Defense Criminal Investigation Service. It remains in progress.

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Stacy Cabrera, a former housing manager at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, who told Reuters she felt pressured to manipulate records to meet bonus goals, pleaded guilty to major fraud in April and is facing up to ‘to five years in prison and a fine of $ 250,000.

“Either you match those numbers so we can get the incentive fee or you might not have a job tomorrow,” Cabrera, who was called Stacy Nelson when she worked for the company, told Reuters in 2019. Reached Wednesday, Cabrera said she could not comment.

Rick Cunefare, a former regional manager for Balfour Beatty who oversaw bases in Oklahoma, Texas and other states, pleaded guilty earlier this year to major fraud and faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $ 250,000. He could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

The DOJ said Cunefare ordered the underlings to make the company’s maintenance performance look stronger than it was. “Cunefare admitted that the false information misled the US Air Force,” the DOJ said.

“The defendants defrauded the US Air Force and put corporate profits ahead of the well-being of military personnel and their families,” said Acting Deputy Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Department’s Criminal Division. Justice.

Balfour Beatty Communities, a unit of UK infrastructure conglomerate Balfour Beatty plc, told Reuters it has never sanctioned falsification of records and instituted internal controls to ensure the practice does not happen again. .

“The company continues to work with the Justice Department to resolve the issue,” a spokesperson said Wednesday.

(Report by MB Pell. Editing by Ronnie Greene)

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