TesTech Inc., a Washington Township engineering firm implicated in federal contracting fraud allegations, has agreed to be permanently barred from receiving state-funded highway and airport contracts, according to Steve Faulkner, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation.
TesTech owner Sherif Aziz agreed to a two-year “debarment” prohibiting him from doing any work that is funded through ODOT, including local projects, regardless of who employs him, Faulkner said.
“This means that Mr. Aziz is prohibited from working on any ODOT project for two years and TesTech is permanently prohibited from working on any ODOT projects,” said Faulkner. “This information will be supplied to the U.S. Department of Transportation.”
Faulkner said the federal government could add TesTech and Aziz to its list of excluded parties, which would prohibit them from working on any transportation projects nationwide. Ohio’s debarment, which also covers federal funds funneled through ODOT, takes effect Dec. 1.
ODOT’s settlement agreement with TesTech indicates all of its assets will be transferred to Barr & Prevost, Inc., a Columbus engineering firm. The agreement says “there will be no action taken by ODOT against” that company as a result of its purchase of TesTech assets.
Aziz did not respond to a request for comment.
The settlement agreements with the state were made “without admission of liability” by Aziz and TesTech. They will not be final until approved by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
ODOT will hear the appeal of its related effort to bar Washington Twp. businessman David Oakes and his company CESO Inc., but the time frame is not set.
In an Oct. 10 letter to ODOT, attorney Charles R. Saxbe asked that the hearing be held in Dayton and that the company be given additional time beyond the 15-day window for the appeal to be heard.
Asked if Oakes and CESO believe ODOT should not bar them, Saxbe said, “I guess I wouldn’t have asked for a hearing.”
TesTech and CESO have done extensive public work in Ohio and other states, according to their web sites.
ODOT is seeking to bar the companies and men under a state law prohibiting submission of false or misleading information in connection with a public contract. ODOT earlier stripped TesTech and Aziz of Disadvantaged Business Enterprise status after determining that he had fraudulently obtained that designation, which gave him preferential treatment in the award of lucrative, federally funded transportation projects.
In June, CESO, TesTech, Aziz, Oakes and his wife, luxury home developer Shery Oakes, agreed to pay nearly $2.9 million to settle a False Claims Act lawsuit filed by the U.S. government and whistle-blower Ryan Parker. The five admitted no wrongdoing in settling allegations that Aziz served as the Oakeses’ front man to qualify TesTech for at least $5.07 million in federally funded contracts under the DBE program between 2005-2009.
Staying with the story
A Dayton Daily News investigation first uncovered evidence of millions of dollars in contracting fraud in the TesTech case in 2011. State officials have cited the Daily News findings in their own investigation of the company.