August 13th, 2013
Acclaim Professional Services’ CEO and managing partner Larry Lehmann agreed to pay $400,000 to settle False Claims Act allegations related to the Federal Communications Commission’s E-rate program. The E-rate program subsidizes eligible equipment and services to make Internet access and internal networking more affordable to public school and libraries.
Under Lehmann’s guidance Acclaim Professional Services partnered with other companies to provide E-rated funded equipment and services from 2004 t0 2006 to the Houston Independent School District (HISD). The United States government alleged that Lehmann provided gifts and loans to to HISD employees, including two loans totalling $66,750 to an HISD employee involved in the procurement and administration of HISD’s E-rate projects. The provisions of the gifts and loans violated the E-rate competitive bidding requirements and HISD procurement rules.
Additionally, the United States alleged that Lehmann devised a scheme that outsourced some of HISD employees to Acclaim Professional Services, which allowed the employees to continue to work while passing on the costs to the E-rate program. Acclaim Professional Services hid the cost of these employees in its invoices to the E-rate program by including such costs into eligible goods and services categories.
This settlement is part of a larger United States government investigation of E-rate funding requests by the HISD and the Dallas Independent School District. The United States previously settled similar allegations with Hewlett-Packard for $16.25 million, $850,000 with HISD and $750,000 with the Dallas Independent School District.
These allegations were first brought to the government’s attention with the filing of a qui tam lawsuit by whistleblowers Dave Richardson and Dave Gillis, who investigated the E-rate program based on Richardson’s experience with bidding for contracts with the two Texas school districts. The United States intervened in the qui tam lawsuit and added Lehmann as a defendant.