Developer Sentenced to 30 Months on Theft of Government Funds and Conspiracy Charges
|U.S. Attorney’s Office December 18, 2013|
Praveen Kailas, age 30, a resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, was sentenced to 30 months in prison by the Honorable Sarah S. Vance after pleading guilty in August to a bill of information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit theft of government funds (18 U.S.C. § 371) and one count of theft of government funds (18 U.S.C. § 641), announced the U.S. Attorney’s Office today.
Kailas’ charges stem from his company, Lago Construction LLC, overbilling its construction monitoring subcontract for the Louisiana Road Home’s Small Rental Property Program (SRPP). The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds the SRPP, which provides monetary assistance to property owners to repair their small-scale rental properties damaged by Hurricanes Katrina or Rita. In order to receive the grant, a small rental property owner has to agree to make the renovated rental units available to moderate to low-income tenants for a period of years. HUD provided the state of Louisiana Office of Community Development with federal funds to administer the SRPP. The state of Louisiana in turn subcontracted with private entities to oversee the administration of the SRPP, including the renovation of the properties.
Starting on June 6, 2011, Lago Construction LLC began its subcontract performing construction monitoring of the renovations of SRPP funded properties. Kailas’ theft of federal funds designated for SRPP administration began from the inception of Lago Construction LLC's subcontract when Kailas was billed for working on the subcontract 40 hours each week but did not spend 40 hours each week performing SRPP construction monitoring services or any other administrative services.
Kailas admitted that he and other stakeholders of Lago Construction LLC solicited monitors to work on the construction of a home they owned in New Orleans, Louisiana and/or to work at other companies owned and operated by them. Hours that these monitors spent on other projects for Kailas and other stakeholders of Lago Construction LLC were not deducted from the hours that were billed to the SRPP contract nor were the monitors paid separately for the work they performed on other projects. Kailas and Lago Construction LLC were paid from federal dollars for these monitors as if they had spent all the hours they billed each week performing services related to the SRPP.
The court found Kailas overbilled $236,000 and ordered him to pay restitution to HUD in the amount of $67,524 because the entity dispersing the HUD funds previously withheld $168,476 fromKailas’s invoices. Kailas will be on three years’ supervised release following his release from prison.
The case was investigated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development-OIG and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Department of Homeland Security-OIG. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Emily K. Greenfield.