U.S. Intervenes in Air Ideal Whistleblower False Claims Lawsuit about HUBZone Certification By Tod Aronovitz | 12/10/14 | 0 Comment

The federal government has joined in a whistleblower false claims lawsuit against Orlando-based construction company Air Ideal and its owner, Kim Amkraut, for allegedly making false statements to the Small Business Administration (SBA), according to a recent announcement by the Justice Department. The whistleblower originally filing suit, Patricia Hopson, contended the alleged submission of these false claims enabled the company to illegally achieve certification as a Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) company.

Claims asserted in the complaint against Air Ideal and Kim Amkraut were made under the False Claims Act and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989. The United States, which is entitled to intervene in this type of lawsuit, also filed its complaint under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act.

At the center of the lawsuit are the mandatory criteria that enable businesses to qualify for the SBA’s HUBZone program—one of which is maintaining their main offices in a designated HUBZone area. Once a business is certified HUBZone, it can use this title to bid on government contracts, and often have an advantage over non-designated HUBZone companies in circumstances where government agencies limit competition to solely HUBZone members.

The whistleblower False Claims lawsuit alleges that Kim Amkraut wasn’t completely forthcoming about Air Ideal’s actual location when the original application was submitted to the SBA in 2010. According to allegations, Air Ideal was located in a non-HUBZone location, and the address provided was a “virtual office” where no employees worked. In misrepresenting the location of Air Ideal’s principle office, the suit alleges, the company and its owner submitted a fabricated lease agreement to the SBA for its supposed HUBZone office.

“The HUBZone Program offers significant benefits to eligible small businesses and is an important tool for unlocking the potential of historically underutilized business zones,” said Inspector General Peggy E. Gustafson for the SBA.  “Preferences for federal contract awards must not be given to persons who lie in order to claim eligibility. This type of fraud undermines confidence in the HUBZone Program and other small business set-aside contract programs.”

Court documentation goes on to say that Air Ideal used its alleged fraudulently-procured HUBZone certification to obtain contracts from the Coast Guard, Army, Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Interior that were worth millions of dollars. These contracts were specifically set aside for qualified HUBZone companies.

This matter was handled by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, in conjunction with the SBA’s Office of Inspector General and Office of General Counsel, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.

The case is U.S. ex rel. Hopson v. Air Ideal, Inc. and Kim Amkraut, No. 6:13-cv-775-Orl-37GJK (M.D. Fla.).

How to Report Miami Medicare Fraud

Healthcare professionals or medical billing employees who have knowledge of questionable Medicare billing practices can file a confidential legal claim under the False Claims Act. By acting as a “whistleblower” in what is known as a “qui tam” lawsuit, a private party may collect up to 30 percent of the amount recovered, depending on how the case is prosecuted.

ARONOVITZ LAW: Miami Whistleblower / Qui Tam Law Firm

The Miami Qui Tam law firm of ARONOVITZ LAW routinely works with whistleblowers to document Medicare fraud and other forms of fraud against the government. Contact Miami Whistleblower / Qui Tam lawyer Tod Aronovitz to discuss your case.