Feds Intervene in Louisiana Lawsuit over FEMA Contract

July 6, 2011

The Justice Department has intervened in a whistleblower lawsuit that accuses a New Orleans construction company of submitting forged records so it could cash in on a $28 million federal contract for work on government-issued trailers after Hurricane Katrina.

A federal lawsuit unsealed Thursday claims Jacquet Construction Services LLC and its owner, Carter Jacquet, violated the False Claims Act.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded the company a contract for maintaining travel trailers occupied by victims of the 2005 hurricane. The suit claims company employees were instructed to create thousands of fake inspection forms so FEMA would pay for work that hadn’t been performed.

Carter Jacquet offered bonuses to employees who forged the most forms, the suit alleges.

A former employee of the company, Brenda deCastro, filed the suit in June 2007. It remained under seal until the Justice Department decided to intervene.

“The Department of Justice is committed to recovering taxpayer money from unscrupulous contractors that take money that they didn’t earn,” U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said in statement Friday.

In an email response to a request for comment, Carter Jacquet wrote, “I believe in our justice system and I believe in the overall good in people. What is happening is out of my control. I only hope that the truth comes out.”

The False Claims Act allows individuals to sue on the government’s behalf and possibly receive a share of any funds recovered through the lawsuit. The Justice Department has asked the court for 120 days to file its own complaint over the allegations.

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