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07/13/2011

Washington business owner sentenced to 18 months in prison

Participated in conspiracy to defraud ICE, made false claims on government contract

WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice has announced that the founder and president of a Washington-area design firm was sentenced to 18 months in prison for her role in a conspiracy to defraud the United States in the award of a government contract for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Darlene Mathis-Gardner was sentenced to 18 months in prison, followed by 36 months of supervised release. She must also pay $389,738 in restitution to ICE. Mathis-Gardner was charged with the conspiracy in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Apr. 8, 2011, and she pleaded guilty on Apr. 18, 2011.

According to the two-count felony charge, Mathis-Gardner conspired with others to defraud the United States in order to obtain the award of a contract by the General Services Administration (GSA) for interior design work to be performed on Potomac Center North, a building in Washington that ICE was renovating as a new headquarters.

Mathis-Gardner provided false information and documents to GSA officials in order to obtain the contract. According to the court documents, Mathis-Gardner and her co-conspirators misrepresented their company's background and qualifications and created fictitious documentation of the company's past performance in order to convince government officials that they were qualified to perform the work. Based on the misrepresentations and false documents, the government awarded Mathis-Gardner's company a contract worth approximately $1.3 million. The department said that the conspiracy to fraudulently obtain the contract took place from approximately March 2007 until June 2007.

The charges further state that once the contract was obtained, Mathis-Gardner knowingly presented invoices to GSA that falsely overstated the number of hours that her firm had worked. The department said that the falsely inflated invoices were submitted during the period between June 2007 and January 2009. According to the court documents, as a result of the charged offenses, ICE suffered a loss of $389,738.

Mathis-Gardner's plea arose from an investigation into procurement fraud occurring against ICE conducted by the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division National Criminal Enforcement Section (NCES) and ICE's Office of Professional Responsibility.

Anyone with information concerning collusion or fraud by businesses seeking ICE contracts is urged to call NCES at 202-307-5777, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm or contact the DHS tip-line at 1-877-2INTAKE or Joint.Intake@dhs.gov.