CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A man from Chambersburg, Franklin County has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit violations of the Major Fraud Act.
According to US Attorney Gerard M. Karam, the indictment alleges that between the years 2003, and 2014, 67-year-old James Coccagana, who was chief of the Engineering and Planning Division in the Directorate of Public Works at Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg worked with a number of unnamed coconspirators to defeat the rules and purpose of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development Program.
On Dec. 8, Coccagana pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy to commit the violations of the Major Fraud Act.
The 8(a) Program, according to the United States Small Business Association, requires socially and economically disadvantaged individuals to exercise unconditional control over their own companies. It also requires these companies to commit to performing at least 15% of the cost of any contract with their own employees.
When companies meet these criteria, they can enter the 8(a) Program for a period of up to nine years and then bid on contracts reserved for companies in the 8(a) Program. These reserved contracting opportunities are often referred to as “set-aside” contracts.
It is alleged that Coccagna steered federal government contracts to certain participants in the 8(a) program, knowing that those companies and their existing employees were not playing any meaningful role in performing contracts awarded to them.
The information in the release alleges that for over a decade, Coccagna conspired with three other people who worked in field construction, to get set-aside contracts at Letterkenny awarded to a series of 8(a) Program participants controlled by three unnamed individuals.
These 8(a) Program participants included a company known as 8(a) Company 1, which was affiliated with another unnamed individual known as a fourth conspirator in the information.
The release stated that starting in 2007 it is alleged that Coccagna and the four coconspirators began conspiring to obtain 8(a) Program “set-aside” construction contracts at the army depot.
Coccagna allegedly recommended that the Letterkenny contracting office select 8(a) Company 1 for a series of contracts because he knew of 8(a) Company 1’s affiliation with three of his coconspirators.
In order to make it appear that 8(a) Company 1 was meeting the 15% self-performance requirement, the coconspirators allegedly moved actual laborers on the site at the army depot onto the 8(a) Company 1 payroll. The same practice was allegedly carried out with the other unnamed 8(a)program participants dating back to 2003.
It is alleged that Coccagna was aware of this practice and was aware that coconspirator 4 and her existing employees were not performing on-site work. It is also alleged that coconspirator 4 was rarely present at Letterkenny Army Depot following an initial meeting with Coccagna and the other unnamed conspirators in 2007, the release noted.
The information in the documents also alleges that coconspirator 1 solicited, and Coccagna provided confidential information to coconspirator 1 in order to help coconspirators 1, 2, 3, and 4 win a $60 million construction contract in 2009.
The total value of the contracts associated with this alleged conspiracy exceeded $100 million.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, the Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ravi Romel Sharma is prosecuting the case.