- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 23, 2004

The D.C. government awarded a local contractor recently convicted of racketeering and the company his wife owns a $635,000 contract two days after the city revoked its charter to conduct business in the District.

The D.C. Office of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs revoked General Services Inc.’s charter on Sept. 13 after the company failed to update its corporate filings with the District, city business records show.

Gwen Davis, a spokeswoman for the Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, said companies that lose their charter — or articles of incorporation — should not be doing business in the city.

“You shouldn’t conduct business if that’s revoked,” she said.

The $635,000 contract to upgrade a senior center in Ward 5 was awarded Sept. 15 to D.C. businessman Olushola Akinleye and General Services Inc. Akinleye identifies himself in documents as director of contracting for General Services and his wife, Monreti, is the company president.

City officials said yesterday they are reviewing that deal and others after The Washington Times reported on Tuesday that Akinleye is awaiting sentencing for his conviction last year on federal racketeering and bank fraud charges.

“Actions are going to take place on this matter, and the issue is at the highest level of urgency at the Office of Contracting and Procurement,” said Janice Bolt, a spokeswoman for the agency.

Ms. Bolt said the matter remains under legal review and declined to say whether contracting officials plan to revoke, suspend or move ahead with the contracts. The project was awarded to General Services through a city “set-aside” program that awards contracts to small, local and disadvantaged businesses, records show.

Among the documents under scrutiny is one that Akinleye signed telling the D.C. Office of Contracting and Procurement that no company owners or directors were indicted or convicted in any matter involving fraud in the past three years.

Akinleye, 43, was convicted in a real-estate fraud scheme last year that relied on fake and stolen identities to secure loans to fund “land flips” of properties in poor sections of the city, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. He is expected to be sentenced later this year.

The $635,000 contract is the latest of three projects the city awarded Akinleye and General Services in the past five weeks. The projects — worth more than $1.3 million — include a new $205,000 parking lot at the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services training facility and the $471,000 renovation of a firehouse at 2425 Irving St. SE.

Earlier this week, Akinleye downplayed his role at General Services amid questions about his conviction, saying contracting officials made a mistake by listing him as the contractor because he does not own General Services.

City business records show that Mrs. Akinleye was listed as secretary in a company that Akinleye formed in 1994 called ProTech Builders Inc.

ProTech, which had its charter revoked in 2003, was convicted of racketeering and bank fraud along with Akinleye and four others last year. Mrs. Akinleye was not charged in the case.

The Justice Department, which prosecuted the case, says that the criminal enterprise resulting in Akinleye’s conviction took place from 1995 to 1999 and that it involved the use of fake and stolen identities to secure bank loans.

Money from the fraudulent loans then were used to fund “land flips” in low-income sections of the District, including properties later placed in the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 8 program, prosecutors said. The scheme cost banks and government housing programs more than $1 million, court records show.

Ms. Bolt said contracting officials are conducting a “thorough review” of contracts to Akinleye in light of his criminal conviction.

She said the city contracting office conducts checks to make sure companies that do business with the city are not suspended in other jurisdictions. Persons are not routinely checked, however.

Neither the federal government nor any local jurisdictions have barred Akinleye, ProTech or General Services from bidding on local, state or federal government contracts, according to records.

D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr., Ward 5 Democrat, said Monday that the situation highlights a need for changes in the way the city contracting office conducts business.

“They should be doing routine checks to avoid this kind of thing,” he said. “There needs to be a complete overhaul in that office.”

D.C. Council member David A. Catania, at-large Republican, said he wants the D.C. Office of the Attorney General to start signing off on city contracts.

“It’s important to have another level of oversight,” Mr. Catania said Tuesday. “Right now, we have low level contracting officers obligating the District for millions of dollars. … Often, there is the appearance of too cozy of a relationship between contracting officers and vendors.”

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