In a significant development that highlights the critical importance of ethics and transparency in public contracts, a former California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) contract manager and a former contractor were sentenced for their involvement in a bid-rigging and bribery plot connected to Caltrans improvement and repair contracts.
Choon Foo “Keith” Yong, the ex-Caltrans contract manager, received a 49-month prison term and was mandated to pay $984,699.53 in restitution. According to an agreement filed on April 11, 2022, Yong, alongside his co-conspirators, conspired from early 2015 through late 2019 to subvert the competitive bidding process for Caltrans contracts, ensuring companies controlled by Yong’s co-conspirators presented the winning bids and secured the contracts. Yong also confessed to accepting bribes while working for Caltrans, a state agency receiving considerable federal funding. The bribes, which were in the form of cash payments, wine, furniture, and home remodeling services, amounted to nearly $1 million.
William D. Opp, the former contractor, was sentenced to 45 months in prison and ordered to pay $797,940.23 in restitution. As per a plea agreement filed on October 3, 2022, Opp participated in the same conspiracy from early 2015 through at least August 2018. Opp formed a separate construction company, nominally headed by his wife, to present sham bids on Caltrans contracts. During his involvement in the conspiracy, Opp and his co-conspirators gave Yong nearly $800,000 in cash bribes and other benefits.
This case serves as a stark reminder to small business owners of the importance of integrity in public procurement processes. It underscores the rigorous enforcement of laws designed to promote fair competition and deter corrupt practices.
Yong and Opp are the second and third co-conspirators to be sentenced in this case. On April 17, 2023, former construction company owner Bill R. Miller received a 78-month prison term and was ordered to pay nearly $1 million in restitution.
“These criminals – including a state employee who sought sales commissions for his role in the bid-rigging scheme – put greed and personal gain ahead of the public trust and are being punished accordingly,” said Director Daniel Glad of the Justice Department’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF).
U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert for the Eastern District of California added, “The defendants’ abuse of public trust and the length and breadth of the criminal conduct fully warrant today’s sentences. Bribes have no place in government contracting.”
The sentencing is the outcome of a joint investigation led by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California, and the FBI’s Sacramento Field Office, as part of the Justice Department’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF).
For small business owners, this case serves as a potent reminder of the severe penalties for corruption in public procurement, underscoring the importance of fair and transparent business practices.
This article, “Former Public Official and Contractor Sentenced in California for Bribery and Bid-Rigging Scheme” was first published on Small Business Trends