A 51-year-old Marine veteran was indicted recently on charges she committed fraud to obtain government contracts with the Department of Veterans Affairs for a company providing flooring and furniture over a seven-year period.
Valerie Gonzalez, of Tucson, Arizona, faces seven counts of wire fraud and one count of making a false statement on a VA vendor verification form, according to a justice department statement.
If convicted, Gonzalez faces up to 20 years in federal prison and $250,000 fines for each of the eight counts. The indictment was issued on March 11. There has not yet been another hearing date set, according to court records.
From 2010 through at least May 2017 Gonzalez and The Primus Group allegedly claimed service-disabled veteran-owned small business status to obtain the contracts, according to court documents.
Gonzalez is a service-connected veteran with a zero percent disability rating who served in the Marine Corps from April 1988 to November 1990, according to court documents.
She claimed to own 99 percent of the company when she applied for the program that grants priority to service-connected disabled veteran business owners.
But, prosecutors claim, Primus has multiple other shareholders who do not have a service-connected disability status.
Which, the government alleges, means that each of the seven wire transfers of money from the government to a bank in Texas that ranged from $228,000 to $340,000 over at least three years are considered fraud.
Only 51 percent of the business must be unconditionally owned by the service-connected veteran, according to court documents.
And the work must be done by the company run by the veteran, not simply delegated to other companies, known as “pass-through companies.”
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.