At least half of the six contractors that built prototypes for Donald Trump’s border wall have deeply questionable histories, according to a nonpartisan watchdog group that reviewed public records, a previously unreported whistleblower lawsuit, and documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
In a report released Tuesday, DC-based group The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) identified three contractors—Caddell Construction, W.G. Yates & Sons, and Fisher Sand & Gravel—who have been hit with multiple allegations of mismanagement and criminality.
The report found that one of the contractors, Caddell Construction, faced “debarment”— which prevents companies from extending, renewing, or bidding with any federal agencies—on multiple occasions.
The Army Corps of Engineers in 2014 sent the Army’s Procurement Fraud Division a recommendation to debar Caddell, according to POGO, writing, “It is in the Government’s interest to debar Caddell Construction Co. … based upon the submission of numerous false statements and/or false claims to obtain payment.”
“In the end, Caddell escaped debarment, receiving only a warning,” notes the POGO report.
In 1999, the U.S. Air Force also officially proposed to debar Caddell. “The details of the proposed debarment are unclear, but in the end Caddell was ineligible for just eight days,” according to POGO.
Caddell Construction agreed in 2012 to pay the Department of Justice $2 million to resolve criminal fraud violations. More details on the case from the DOJ:
Caddell entered into an agreement with Mountain Chief – which is certified as a Native American, woman-owned and economically-disadvantaged small business – to participate in the DoD’s Mentor-Protégé Program, in which major DoD contractors (mentor firms) contract with and provide developmental assistance to disadvantaged small businesses (protégé firms) and are reimbursed by the DoD for related costs.
From April 2003 to October 2004, Caddell also submitted at least eight requests to the DoD for the Indian Incentive Program, for rebates based on services purportedly performed on subcontracts Caddell gave to Mountain Chief. Mountain Chief performed few, if any of these services, and the invoices were created solely to support Caddell’s applications for payment.
The DOJ referred to Caddell as “a major commercial and industrial federal government construction contractor.”
Caddell Construction did not respond to Splinter’s phone calls and emails for comment on this story.
W.G. Yates & Sons, which was also awarded a contract to build two border wall prototypes, is currently the subject of a years-long whistleblower lawsuit alleging that it misrepresented its use of small business subcontracts for a 2009 Camp Lejeune project. From POGO:
The government partially intervened in the case, securing a guilty plea from the owner of the subcontractor involved—Pompano Masonry. She pleaded guilty in 2015 to lying to investigators and received a 30-month prison sentence.
The lawsuit, filed by former Pompano Masonry employee Rickey Howard, alleges that Caddell and Yates, while engaged in a $190 million construction project for the Navy at Camp Lejeune, encouraged Pompano to create a sham small business that they would then use to route Pompano’s payments through.
A spokesperson for Yates told POGO that “Yates Construction believes that the plaintiff’s...case against it is baseless. Plaintiff’s allegations are just that—allegations—untested and prove nothing. The government declined to join the case after conducting its own inquiry into this matter.”
Fisher Sand & Gravel has a rap sheet that is too long to list here, racking up around two thousand violation notices from city, county, state, and federal regulatory bodies, many relating to the company’s disregard for air pollution standards. Completely aside from the then-owner of the company being sent to prison for tax fraud in 2009, the city of Phoenix reportedly filed 467 criminal charges against the company in 2010, stemming primarily from violations at one facility’s asphalt plant.
Fisher Sand & Gravel did not respond to Splinter or POGO’s request for comment either.
The Trump administration is seeking $18 billion over the next decade to build just the initial phase of the border wall. All of these companies are still eligible to win the contracts to build it.