Updated: $1.5 million restitution ordered in fraud by Lincoln Hall contractor

Updated: $1.5 million restitution ordered in fraud by Lincoln Hall contractor

Updated 10:40 p.m. Thursday.

SPRINGFIELD — The former head of a Peoria-area construction firm that received nearly $60 million in state contracts for building projects at two Illinois universities was ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution after pleading guilty late Wednesday afternoon to fraud in connection with the deals.

Thomas J. Williams entered a guilty plea to two counts of mail fraud in Sangamon County Circuit Court. Williams, 81, of Peoria Heights was also sentenced to 2-1/2 years' probation in the case before Circuit Judge John Schmidt.

Williams admitted to falsely claiming that his company would pay minority-owned subcontractors, as required by state law, for millions of dollars of work renovating the University of Illinois' historic Lincoln Hall and building a new science complex at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

In his plea, he also admitted telling the Illinois Capital Development Board, which issued the contracts, that his company would employ BJB Enterprises of Peoria, a minority-owned firm, on the projects. But BJB did no work and didn't provide any materials, according to Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office.

"Williams Brothers used this subcontractor as a front to win significant state construction contracts," Madigan, a Democrat, said in a written statement. "The company's illegal acts denied legitimate minority-owned businesses from securing public contracts and defrauded taxpayers."

Williams did not return a phone message left at his home. Messages left for his attorney, Michael Monaco of Chicago, were not immediately returned. BJB Enterprises also could not be reached.

Williams resigned as president of the company in February in a decision unrelated to the plea deal, Madigan spokeswoman Natalie Bauer said.

Williams Brothers won a multimillion-dollar contract as part of the three-year, $64 million renovation of the UI's Lincoln Hall, an iconic structure opened in 1911. The building reopened for classes last fall, and Gov. Pat Quinn hosted its February rededication. Williams Brothers' contract required that $3.3 million be paid to a minority-owned subcontractor.

The state has paid Williams Brothers $41.1 million for the Lincoln Hall work, according to Capital Development Board spokesperson Dave Blanchette. The board oversees state-funded construction projects that don't involve roads.

Of the $1.5 million Williams must pay, $500,000 will go to the UI, according to university spokesman Tom Hardy. It will be paid in two installments over the next 24 months.

Williams Brothers is no stranger to campus projects. The Capital Development Board chose the company as general contractor for the $71 million electrical and computer engineering building currently being built off Wright Street south of the Beckman Institute in Urbana. To date, the state has paid $26.7 million to Williams Brothers for work on that building, according to Blanchette.

Not only has the company done work for state-funded projects on campus, it has also contracted directly with the UI, most recently on the Ikenberry Commons residence-hall project in Champaign.

"I think we're going to evaluate the existing contracts and the relationship and talk to the Capital Development Board and see where things go from there," Hardy said.

According to the court agreement, the case's resolution precludes any future action regarding other projects, including Ikenberry Commons and the electrical and computer engineering building.

Blanchette said one of the state agency's project managers for Lincoln Hall noticed discrepancies in the paperwork in April 2011 and notified his superiors, who then got in touch with the attorney general's office.

The case was investigated and prosecuted by Madigan's public-integrity bureau, which the three-term attorney general formed in 2006 with an eye toward uncovering fraud and government abuse and waste.

The company's deal for the SIU-Edwardsville science complex was $21.5 million, of which $3.4 million was supposed to be allocated to a minority-led business. The cost of building a new science building and renovating the existing one was $78.9 million.

Bauer said she didn't expect additional charges "at this time," but added that the office continues to investigate minority-enterprise fraud "in other government contracts."

According to state comptroller's records, Williams Brothers has received $85 million in contracts from the Capital Development Board since 2010, including about half of a $37 million obligation this year. It was not immediately clear if any of that money is connected to the university work.

BJB Enterprises is not listed among companies registered with the Illinois Secretary of State's Office, but comptroller records indicate a company by that name has received just one recent state payment — $7,520 from the Department of Military Affairs in 2012.

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Bulldogmojo wrote on March 28, 2013 at 11:03 am

Wow a dishonest, lying, thieving contractor??!?!?!?!!! That's not something you see everyday.

vcponsardin wrote on March 28, 2013 at 11:03 am

Some scum-bucket contractor defrauds the state of millions and gets two years probation.  While some poor college kid gets caught the a bit of marijuana and he has to serve jail time.  Who ever said this is the best judicial system in the world sure has his head stuck where the sun don't shine...

Bulldogmojo wrote on March 28, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Exactly! This state still operates on a "It's political not criminal", attitude that is the modus operandi of these "its da Cheecaago waaay" polish sausage eating upstate morons who can't seem to do anything without someone getting ripped off.

Illinois justice is blind...deaf and dumb.

mark taylor's ghost wrote on March 28, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Ya. Thank jeebus the corruption is only an upstate 'Cheecaago way' thing and there's NO CORRUPTION downstate or anywhere else in the country.

Peoria's 'upstate,' right?

Bulldogmojo wrote on March 28, 2013 at 2:03 pm

uh oh somebody's from Naperville... it certainly emanates from there. Is there bratwurst grease clogging up your caps lock? LOL

mark taylor's ghost wrote on March 28, 2013 at 6:03 pm

wrong on both counts :-/

just as a for instance: the chicago dems always get dinged for 'stealing' the election for kennedy. of course, the downstate repubs tried just as hard to steal it for tricky dick. the upstate dems were just, tho only marginally, more effective than the downstate repubs at it.

but of course, that's not really true. we all know that downstate repubs, as with all downstaters, are pure as the driven snow.

and, when they do engage in corruption, it's just cause it 'emanated' down here from that awful city, you know, the one that keeps the rest of the state from being know as North Arkansas.

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!!!!!!!11!

Bulldogmojo wrote on March 29, 2013 at 8:03 am

Don't lose your sense of humor about your chicago heritage. I mean any city that would elect mayors solely based on the speed of snow removal can't be all stupid. I guess.

DA BEARSSSSS

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=769A4mUY7g0

mark taylor's ghost wrote on March 29, 2013 at 9:03 am

i've NEVER had a sense of humor and i RESENT the acCUSatioN!!!!!11!

Bulldogmojo wrote on March 29, 2013 at 1:03 pm

LOL

Sid Saltfork wrote on March 28, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Follow the money.  Look at all "campaign donations" to the legislators, and governor.  Look at the finances of the U of I administrators for connections.  It would take some investigative journalism rather than just reporting surface news releases.  This did not just slip through the cracks without anyone knowing about it when it was being done.

Local Yocal wrote on March 28, 2013 at 2:03 pm
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"This did not just slip through the cracks without anyone knowing about it when it was being done."

Sorry Sid, can't resist: sounds like a little 'ol,...whatchamacallit,......c-o-n-s-p-i-r-a-c-y. Shhh. Those kinds of ideers are sheer lunacy.

Sid Saltfork wrote on March 28, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Conspiracy theory is based on non-proven facts.  Two of the last three governors of both parties went to prison for corruption.  State congress members have went to prison.  Legislators have been proven guilty of corruption.  Lobby representatives are in prison.  Corruption in Illinois has been proven time, and time again.  This is not some "human flesh" in produced food with the government's knowledge conspiracy theory which you have supported in the defunct Discussion site.  It is not some conspiracy theory that the state's attorney is biased.

Yocal if you want to see conspiracies, base them on historical proof.  Only a fool would believe that there is no corruption in Illinois.  The contractor knew that there was the possibility of being caught in the fraud; but he had to have some confidence that he would not get caught.  That confidence comes from some level in the bidding process.  The contracting firm was too big, and experienced to be that bold, and naive.  Two, and one half years of probation for a man who stole $1,500,000.00 shows the right connections.

Stick to your YouTube videos.  Maybe, you will gain some experience elsewhere if you look for it.  I saw gifts being distributed, and favors gained during my experience working for the state. 

Local Yocal wrote on March 28, 2013 at 6:03 pm
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Just for the record, Sid, I never signed off on the human flesh in the food supply theory proposed by Penteller, only said it was something possible given the same level of corruption at the federal level as is the case here in the home state. I asked you to disprove that theory if you could and would have considered that evidence had you any. Like I said before, the food processing industry is exposed enough by the new book, "Salt, Sugar, Fat;" but I'm waiting for the youtube video of that book because I'm not smart enough to deal with readin' and rightin'. 

By the way, I think you are correct to suggest a fix of some kind with this contractor, the lack of prosecution is extraordinary. And he gets to keep all that other money that's been paid to his barely-existant firm? I guess crime pays if you are in your eighties.

sameeker wrote on March 28, 2013 at 2:03 pm

I'll play devils advocate here.

The guy gets the work, on the condition that he hires a specified "minority" contractor. Didn't the "minority" contractor bid on the work like everybody else does? When someone bids on a job, they have the right to hire whoever they want. Nothing in the report says that the guy went with a higher bid to avoid hiring the specified firm. How much did the "minority" firm pay someone to get such special treatment? If a contractor is required to hire them, then they can set their own price without competing in the bid process. Whoever submits the lowest bid for the specified work should get the job, whether it is in the public or the private sector. sounds to me like the guy didn't play ball with the corruption and now they are gunning for him.

Bulldogmojo wrote on March 28, 2013 at 4:03 pm

"minority-owned subcontractors, as required by state law"

I don't think the law is written to identify a specific named set of subcontractors. Although I don't dispute your notion of a possible payoff that wasn't reciprocated with the promised work. Maybe the complaint arose out of retalitation for that. Multilayer corruption is certainly a possibility in Illinois.

 

rsp wrote on March 31, 2013 at 6:03 am

He placed a bid, in it he listed the sub-contractors he was going to use. He listed minority owned ones in order to get the contract. As part of the auditing process, he was caught using people that did not fulfill his contract. When you have a contract that has specific clauses in it that you agreed to, you are bound by those clauses. He didn't come back and say that sub-contractor was unavailable, can we make a change, he just made a change without having had any agreement with the minority company in the first place. 

Bulldogmojo wrote on April 01, 2013 at 10:04 am

You just described every contractual process the state and U of I are involved in. (pension, health insurance, vendors agreements etc.) It's all written on an Etch-A-Sketch as far as they're concerned. When do they start charging idiots at CMS or Madigan the elder for that matter?

State Tax Payer wrote on March 28, 2013 at 6:03 pm

There is a larger picture that is being missed. It is especially concerning that the State of Illinois has allowed CMS certified "front" companies (MFBE) to exist and be used widely and openly with little consequence. It is the ‘elephant in the room’ at every pre-bid and seems to be sanctioned by lack of motivation of those who are charged with minority oversight and compliance at bid date. Instead of serving the community as the program was meant to do by forcing contractors to subcontract a certain percent of their work to firms owned by minorities and women, these certified companies are used as fronts to avoid loss of competitive control at bid date by the Contractor. By subcontracting to these independent third-parties, who carry only their name and their papered CMS certification for the value of the MAFBE minimum requirement, the bidder double-subs the noncompliant contactor through the CMS front company for the minimum amount to fulfill the MAFBE goal. Usually there is a fee paid outside of the contract for this service. Someone should push through a FOIA to get a registry of the MAFBE compliance and check these out. However; here is the rub… up to this point the State has been complacent to look at this as fraud. My guess is that it inflates the MAFBE compliance numbers and serves the need for the state entity that manages MAFBE to receive benefit by inflated compliance numbers. Call it what you want..it is legislatively sanctioned fraud in my book.

ohnooo wrote on March 29, 2013 at 1:03 am

As usual the state of Illinois has corruption in its veins, I believe that there much more to this story that will never be heard.   The Uof I is nothing but a money pit for the state, it has poor politics in athletics, it players, its "historic monuments" ( Ha that's a refurbrish joke ) it's computers systems,  heck even some of the adminstrative staff even gets involved, and most lately how well its ranking is for law school, just the tip of the iceberg that we know of.    Such as sad state of affairs to allow a system such as this to continue to over charge "pupils "  ( unless your rubbin elbows with the right company, at which time it was ok cause no one was watching ) How come no indictments from all that too ?    Imagine if this was  To many overpaid, overpriced, underestimated, bonded out, resigned coaches errors with our tax dollars year in and year out.  When will it end ? 

skiparoo wrote on March 29, 2013 at 5:03 pm

they are all crooks.  the court is their pet.