Chicago, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Two former top executives of a defunct general contractor, Krahl Construction, were sentenced to prison terms after pleading guilty to engaging in a $10.4 million fraudulent billing and kickback scheme. Five additional employees of Krahl and two individuals who received kickbacks—all of whom also pleaded guilty—are scheduled to be sentenced on various dates beginning today through mid-March in U.S. District Court.
JOHN PADERTA, 54, of Fontana, Wisconsin and formerly of Burr Ridge, Krahl’s former president who owned at least 80 percent of the company, was sentenced to five years in prison. DOUG HARNER, 48, of Chicago, Krahl’s former executive vice president and part owner, was sentenced to four years in prison. The sentences were imposed last week by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly, who also will sentence the remaining defendants.
Paderta was ordered to pay restitution of $9,987,463 to Digital Realty Trust, of San Francisco, which hired Krahl to renovate portions of an eight-story building located at 350 E. Cermak, Chicago, and $433,059 to Berwind Property Group, a Chicago firm that hired Krahl to develop commercial property in Bolingbrook known as the Tallgrass project. Paderta was ordered to begin serving his sentence on May 7.
Harner was ordered to pay restitution of $9,471,908 to Digital, and $100,000 to Berwind. He was ordered to begin serving his sentence on May 8. Paderta and Harner were each ordered to also forfeit $9 million in fraudulent proceeds to the government.
The sentences were announced today by Gary S. Shapiro, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Cory B. Nelson, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The fraud scheme caused actual losses of nearly $10 million to Digital and $433,000 to Berwind, while two former employees of those firms allegedly received kickbacks valued at $625,000 and $119,500, respectively. Krahl, which specialized in interior construction, closed its Chicago office at 322 S. Green St., in January 2010, less than a week after FBI agents executed a federal search warrant. The judge noted that 180 Krahl employees who lost their jobs as a result of the fraud scheme were also victims, as were the company’s customers and sub-contractors whose projects were adversely affected when Krahl closed.
According to court records, between 2005 and 2009, certain defendants fraudulently inflated the cost of renovation projects being performed by Krahl and caused the creation of false documents to support the inflated costs, resulting in over-billing Digital and Berwind a combined total of approximately $15 million. At the same time, the two clients’ employees secretly used their positions to solicit and accept bribe/kickback payments and home improvements in exchange for favorable action to help Krahl obtain contracts with those companies.
The remaining Krahl defendants who admitted roles in the scheme and are awaiting sentencing are: Thaddeus Stepniewski, 52, of Lisle, Krahl’s chief financial officer; Scott Mousel, 49, of New Orleans and formerly of Lisle, a Krahl project manager for two portions of the Cermak project; John Bak, 38, of Ringwood, Ill., also a Krahl project manager on portions of the Cermak project; Heather Ellis, 36, of Midlothian, a Krahl project manager assistant on portions of the Cermak project; and Erin Scott, 37, of Clarendon Hills, also a Krahl project manager assistant on the Cermak project.
Also awaiting sentencing are Scott Solano, 41, of Burr Ridge, a Digital employee who managed the Cermak building; and Timothy Scannell, 49, of Chicago, a Berwind vice president who managed the Tallgrass renovation of a three-story office building and warehouse in Bolingbrook.
Solano solicited and accepted kickbacks from Krahl, including payments totaling approximately $500,000 and renovations on his home totaling approximately $125,000. In exchange for the kickbacks, Solano promised to, and did, take favorable action on behalf of Krahl as requested and as opportunities arose, including helping Krahl obtain contracts from Digital.
Scannell also solicited and accepted kickbacks from Krahl, including payments totaling approximately $100,000, as well as renovations on his home totaling approximately $19,500. In exchange for the kickbacks, Scannell promised to take favorable action on behalf of Krahl as requested and as opportunities arose, including agreeing to help Krahl obtain contracts from Berwind.
The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen Heinze and Jacqueline Stern.