U.S. military landlord pleads guilty to fraud, resolving probe – Justice Dept

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Homes that were constructed by Balfour Beatty are seen in a neighborhood at Tinker Air Force Base

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department said it resolved probes into Balfour Beatty Communities, one of the U.S. military’s largest private landlords, after it pleaded guilty on Wednesday to one count of major fraud and agreed to pay over $65 million in fines and restitution.

Balfour Beatty was being investigated for defrauding the U.S. Air Force, Army and Navy. A company spokesperson said on Thursday: “We have taken full responsibility and apologize to all our stakeholders.”

The company is a unit of British infrastructure conglomerate Balfour Beatty Plc.

In 2019, Reuters reports described https://reut.rs/3su5sAg how Balfour Beatty employees falsified maintenance documents at Air Force bases to help the company qualify for incentive fee payments, citing five former employees who said they falsified records, company emails and internal Air Force communications. Service members and their families were exposed to asbestos, vermin, mold and raw sewage.

The reports prompted https://reut.rs/3mqRDP0 an investigation by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the Inspector General’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan accepted the company’s guilty plea on Wednesday and sentenced it to pay over $65 million, serve three years of probation, and engage an independent compliance monitor for a period of three years.

“Instead of promptly repairing housing for U.S. service members as required, Balfour Beatty Communities lied about the repairs to pocket millions of dollars in performance bonuses,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. 

“This pervasive fraud was a consequence of Balfour Beatty Communities’ broken corporate culture”.

Stacy Cabrera, a former housing manager at Texas’s Lackland Air Force Base who told Reuters she felt pressure to manipulate records to meet the bonus goals, pleaded guilty to major fraud in April. Rick Cunefare, a former Balfour Beatty regional manager who oversaw bases in Oklahoma, Texas and other states, pleaded guilty earlier this year to major fraud.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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