Ex-government official charged with allegedly trying to defraud small business owners

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A man of Chambersburg, Franklin County has been charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the Substantial Fraud Act.

According to U.S. Attorney Gerard M. Karam, the indictment alleges that between 2003 and 2014, James Coccagana, 67, served as director of engineering and planning for the Public Works Division at Letterkenny Army Base in Chambersburg and with Many unnamed co-conspirators collaborated to undermine the rules and purpose of the SBA 8(a) business development program.

According to the American Small Business Association, the 8(a) plan requires socially and economically disadvantaged individuals to exercise unconditional control over their own business. It also requires the companies to commit to at least 15% of the cost of any contract with their own employees.

When companies meet these criteria, they can participate in the 8(a) program for up to nine years and then bid for contracts reserved for companies in the 8(a) program. These retained contracting opportunities are commonly referred to as “on hold” contracts.

Coccagna allegedly steered federal government contracts to certain participants in the 8(a) program knowing that the companies and their current employees did not play any meaningful role in fulfilling the contracts awarded to them.

Information in the press release alleges that over a decade, Coccagna conspired with three others working on site to obtain reservations in Letterkenny for a series of Scheme 8(a) participants controlled by three unnamed individuals contract.

These 8(a) plan participants include a company named 8(a) Company 1which is linked to another unnamed individual, identified in the messages as a fourth co-conspirator.

Beginning in 2007, Coccagna and four co-conspirators allegedly began conspiring to secure a Project 8(a) “on hold” construction contract at the Army base, the release said.

Coccagna allegedly advised Letterkenny contracting office to choose 8(a) Company 1 series of contracts because he knew 8(a) Company 1 Linked to three of his accomplices.

to make it look 8(a) Company 1 Upon meeting the 15 percent self-performance requirement, the conspirators allegedly moved actual laborers from the military field to the 8(a) Company 1 Payroll. Other unnamed Program 8(a) participants dating back to 2003 are said to have done the same.

Coccagna allegedly knew of the practice and knew that Conspiracy 4 and her existing staff were not working on site. After an initial meeting with Coccagna and other unnamed co-conspirators in 2007, Co-Conspirator 4 was allegedly rarely seen at Letterkenny Army Base.

The information in the documents also alleges that Conspiracy 1 sought advice from Conspiracy 1 and that Coccagna provided Conspiracy 1 with confidential information to help Conspiracies 1, 2, 3 and 4 win a $60 million construction contract in 2009.

The total value of contracts related to this alleged conspiracy exceeds $100 million.

The case is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General, the Army Department of Criminal Investigations Division, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ravi Romel Sharma is prosecuting the case.

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