KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City-area contractor pleaded guilty Monday in Kansas to defrauding a federal government program designed to steer projects to companies owned by disabled veterans.
In his plea, Warren Parker, 70, of Blue Springs, Mo., admitted that he falsely claimed to be a disabled vet, helping his company, Silver Star Construction LLC, land roughly $7.5 million in contacts it wasn't eligible to receive.
When he announced the charges against Parker last summer, Kansas U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said Parker's company wasn't doing well in a down economy when he devised a scheme to take advantage of the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Program, in which a smaller pool of companies compete for work.
"If we fail to hold these firms accountable, we will be sending a message to unscrupulous members of the contracting community that there is no punishment and no penalty for abusing the program," Grissom said in June.
Parker, whose company also operated in Stilwell, Kan., pleaded guilty to single counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, major program fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and making a false statement.
Parker's son, Michael J. Parker, 37, and wife, Mary Parker, 67, both of Blue Springs, Thomas Whitehead, 59, of Leawood, Kan., and Silver Star Construction also have been charged in the case, which was filed in Kansas because some of the contracts were for projects in the state.
Warren Parker served in the Missouri National Guard from 1963 through 1968, but spent only six months on active duty to attend basic training and his military occupational school. Prosecutors said he never left Missouri while on active duty or while assigned to the Guard, and was honorably discharged in 1968 as a senior engineer equipment mechanic.
That didn't stop him from submitting to the government a false resume in March 2011 in which he manufactured a history as a war hero. That included a record of service in Vietnam, where he said he was awarded three Silver Stars, three Purple Heart Medals, four Bronze Stars with valor and more than a dozen other commendations, including 32 citations for heroism.
In reality, his only decoration in the military was an expert rifle badge.
Grissom said the Government Accountability Office became aware of fraud in the veterans program in 2009. Investigators began looking into Silver Star Construction after a background check on Warren Parker showed he had grossly inflated his military credentials and hadn't been certified as a service-disabled veteran.
In his plea, Parker agreed to forfeiture counts that will result in a $6.8 million judgment entered against him in favor of the United States. He also agreed to the immediate forfeiture of personal property, which prosecutors said includes a notebook Parker labeled "Book of Death," containing a list of fabricated Vietnam War "sniper kills."
He faces up to 30 years in federal prison without parole when he is sentenced at an undetermined date.