This story from the Homeland Security Today website dates from a couple of months ago, but it is an interesting procurement fraud case, as it does not involve any internal participants – it is a purely supplier-based fraud. Whilst that is certainly far from unique, it is probably not as common as those driven by internal staff or through collusion between internal and external players.
In this case, Cory Collin Fitzgerald Sanders, age 39, of Hagerstown, Maryland, was sentenced to 45 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for wire fraud, false claims, and making and using a false document in connection with his companies’ performance on federal contracts. He also had to pay around $200,000 in fines and restitution.
The offences related to his two telecoms firms between 2015 and 2020. The charges were pretty wide ranging but generally related to contracts with federal agencies that required his firms, Sandtech or Cycorp Technologies, to provide new telecommunications equipment which was still under manufacturers’ warranty.
He contracted to supply new equipment, but then actually provided second hand, or non-warranted equipment instead. He claimed to have accreditation from the OEMs (original manufacturers) that would protect his customers when in fact he didn’t. He also was not authorized to provide certain IT services to the federal government, but represented to government officials that he was. It sounds like he invoiced in a fraudulent manner too, getting the agencies to pay for “deficient or non-existent performance”.
“Mr. Sanders deserves to be held fully accountable for his actions to defraud the U.S. Government by routinely providing telecommunications equipment that did not meet contract specifications and submitting false documentation in an attempt to cover up his scheme,” said Special Agent in Charge Greg Gross.
The US government does seem pretty hot on prosecuting dodgy suppliers, more so than I’ve seen generally in the UK, for instance. In this case, a prison sentence of 45 months again feels more severe than “white collar criminals” tend to get in the UK. That’s a good disincentive for others who might be tempted to commit fraud, of course.
So what can procurement people and others do to protect their organisations against this sort of fraud? There are a few potential risk mitigation steps. Firstly, checking out the credentials of any new supplier (and their directors) is important. And take up references wherever possible. Maybe that would not have stopped Sanders – but it certainly makes it harder to create new firms for fraudulent purposes.
Another obvious point is that goods delivered, whatever they are, should be checked to make sure they align with what was contracted for. And don’t assume that any accreditations and certifications are genuine – documents and emails can be forged. It is better to go back to the source if you can – you could go back down the supply chain and check with the OEM that a distributor really is properly accredited, for instance.
So the usual safeguards against procurement fraud come into play again – and you can get the full list of mitigating actions and plenty of good advice on avoiding fraud and corruption in the Bad Buying book of course!