Group accused of ripping off Florida taxpayers in $5M construction fraud scheme at Bay Pines Veterans Hospital

A federal indictment accuses four men of ripping off Florida taxpayers in a nearly $5 million construction fraud scheme at Bay Pines Veterans Hospital in St. Petersburg. It alleges that they posed as a disabled veteran-owned company. 

The Bay Pines VA hospital was looking to build a new cancer infusion therapy center on their campus. The nearly 15,000 square foot building was an expansion of its existing radiation clinic. 

The project was expected to be anywhere from $5-10 million. The VA hired West Construction LL to complete this, and construction had begun when the project was halted. 

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The alleged scheme took advantage of a law designed to give preference to businesses owned by disabled veterans in government contracts. The men are accused of using a veteran-owned company as a front to get the contract and using what’s known as a "pass-through" to then give the work to an ineligible company. 

Matthew West, Roberto Gonzalez, Kevin Kutina and William Gonzalez are accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, among other charges, per the indictment. 

FOX 13 spoke with an attorney defending one of the men accused. 

"There was nothing intended in the application process or the bid process to mislead the government or the VA in any respect," said Latour "LT" Lafferty, attorney of Gunster. "Why the government claims that it's a ‘pass-through’ is because my client was the primary subcontractor on the project and the primary contractor, the general contractor, if you will, is a service disabled veteran."

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"There was nothing wrong with the contract. It wasn't a ‘pass-through’ affiliation at all. The company was trying earnestly to finish the contract," the attorney said.

The attorney hopes they can work with the VA to settle.