- The Washington Times - Monday, June 27, 2005

A D.C. government panel is considering banning several local companies and people from competing for city contracts, a decision that could affect a construction firm whose owner is cooperating in a federal corruption probe of the D.C. Office of Property Management.

Fernando J. Villegas and his company, International Builders Inc., face being barred from city contracts after he pleaded guilty last fall to a scheme to bribe Michael Lorusso, a former deputy director of the property management office.

The city’s newly created Debarment and Suspension Panel proposed the action in March. It will meet this week to begin deciding whether to formally exclude Villegas and his company from city-funded contracts or subcontracts.

Villegas could not be reached for comment.

A woman who answered the phone at his Falls Church home said he was out of town and unable to be reached.

Villegas and Lorusso each pleaded guilty in November to bribery conspiracy charges. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Villegas gave Lorusso cash, a plasma screen television, airfare and a hotel room in Florida and the use of his Mercedes-Benz, in exchange for millions of dollars in government contracts.

Lorusso and Villegas each decided to cooperate in the ongoing federal corruption probe, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Villegas faces up to five years in prison, while Lorusso faces nearly six years.

A spokeswoman for the D.C. Office of Contracting and Procurement said last week that Villegas has not responded to a letter sent by the debarment panel in March to notify him that he and his company could be barred from competing for city contracts.

Several other contractors also face losing their ability to compete for D.C. contracts because of legal problems.

John Izzard III, a former contractor for the D.C. Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO), is petitioning the debarment panel to allow him to do business with the city government two years after he pleaded guilty in federal court to a misdemeanor conflict-of-interest violation.

According to the D.C. Office of the Inspector General, Mr. Izzard solicited a $36,800 payment from the owner of the District-based HMS Co. sometime between August and November 2000 for helping the company win city contracts.

Mr. Izzard’s duties as a private consultant at OCTO included recommending to city officials which vendors should get city technology contracts, the Inspector General’s Office said.

However, in a letter to the debarment panel, Mr. Izzard wrote, “At no time did I knowingly commit any wrongful acts or compromise my integrity.”

He said he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge on the advice of his attorney.

The debarment panel is also considering taking action against District-based General Services Inc. for “concealment and material misrepresentation” of its eligibility to enter into three city contracts last year.

The contracts, worth $1.3 million, were revoked after The Washington Times reported last year that the company’s director of contracts, Olushola Akinleye, signed a “certificate of eligibility” stating that no company directors or owners at General Services had been indicted or convicted during the previous three years.

Akinleye was convicted in 2003 for his role in a real estate scheme federal prosecutors said cost banks and government housing programs more than $1 million.

However, company President Monreti Akinleye in a letter April 4 to city officials said Olushola Akinleye is no longer employed at the company and that Olushola Akinleye was incorrect to list his job title as the company’s secretary when he executed bonds on behalf of General Services.

Court records indicate that Monreti Akinleye and Olushola Akinleye are married.

In her letter to the debarment panel, Monreti Akinleye wrote that she has been “subject to actions which have transitioned from reasonable government concerns into the realm of punishment for the sake of punishment.”

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