June 25, 2024

In a recent turn of events, two U.S. contractors admitted in a federal court to orchestrating a ‘rent-a-vet’ scam. This elaborate trickery involved enlisting the services of disabled military veterans to impersonate them, thereby securing construction contracts under false pretenses.

Image: Courtesy of the United States Department of Justice, Vectorization by Ali Zifan, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Edward DiGorio Jr., aged 65, and Edward Kessler, aged 68, both currently residing in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, have each admitted to two counts of fraud in front of United States District Judge William S. Stickman IV. The duo formerly lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

As the proprietors of two construction firms, Addvetco Inc., and Hi-Def Contracting Inc., operating out of Pittsburgh, DiGorio and Kessler were crucial players in the local construction industry.

The pair routinely placed bids on and eventually secured “set-aside” contracts. These were offered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), specifically to small ventures owned and run by service-disabled U.S. veterans. The VA pre-certified these businesses as Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses (SDVOBs).

However, contrary to the guidelines, neither DiGorio nor Kessler had a military background or were themselves service-disabled.

Rather, they resorted to remunerating service-disabled veterans to falsely pose as leading owners of their businesses.

Between 2007 and 2018, the two organizations acquired a total of 67 contracts intended for SDVOBs. 50 of these contracts were worth $1 million or more.

The two counts of fraud DiGorio and Kessler admitted to pertain to the two most recent contracts won by their firms, from which the defendants collectively made profits exceeding $400,000.

Judge Stickman set the date for the sentencing of each defendant as July 11, 2024. The law stipulates that the most severe sentence could be up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $1 million, or even both, per count. According to the federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence delivered hinges on the severity of the offenses committed and the defendant’s prior criminal record, if any.