A Santa Maria firm paid a $1 million settlement with the federal government over allegations it lied about being a disabled veteran-owned business in order to secure lucrative landscaping and restoration contracts with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
On Friday, the U.S. States Attorney’s Office announced that the settlement with Veterans of the Land, Inc. was finalized May 6 and paid May 11.
The company, which lost nearly all of its assets, will dissolve as part of the agreement.
Federal prosecutors alleged the company’s co-owner, Robert Laurel, recruited a service-disabled veteran relative to be partner in the company in order to qualify as a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business, which gave it priority for restoration contracts for Department of Veterans Affairs facilities.
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That relative lived in Hawaii and not involved in important corporate decisions, prosecutors said.
Between 2008 and 2013, the company performed work at various U.S. National cemeteries, including the Riverside National Cemetery. The government did not argue that the company performed inadequate work, however.
The settlement finalized a civil False Claims Act case filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.