August 8, 2013
A Maryland woman pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges related to setting up at least 15 false businesses in six states that received government contracts despite often being registered to people who did not exist.
The businesses subcontracted all the work to other companies, then took the federal dollars without paying the companies doing the work.
Larayne Whitehead, 34, of Clinton, Md., agreed to forfeit $2.4 million in illegal proceeds and a silver Audi.
"The conspirators typically operated under a particular business name for a period of six to 12 months until the business was either disqualified from the FedBid marketplace or was otherwise burdened with lawsuits or liens," the plea bargain said.
"The conspirators initially used their true names and addresses to register their businesses, but later attempted to conceal their true identities by using aliases to register the businesses and by renting commercial mail box store fronts."
The case illustrates how little federal officials know about where goods and services they purchase come from, with one Whitehead firm selling ammunition to the Army, according to government contracting records, thus raising questions about whether bullets of dubious quality wound up in soldiers' hands.
The Department of Homeland Security, with seemingly little investigation of the company's background, gave it a government credit card "to use for payment for goods provided pursuant to a government contract," on which Whitehead racked up $40,000 in charges.