A whistleblower has been paid $470,000 out of a $2 million settlement after successfully challenging what she and government prosecutors say was a shell company at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
The subcontractor charged with setting up the shell company, Federal Engineers & Constructors, worked under the huge, three-headed joint venture Washington Closure Hanford (WCH), which between 2005 and 2016 received a multibillion-dollar contract from the U.S. Department of Energy to operate the site. The contract paid for cleanup following decades of plutonium production.
WCH was comprised of engineering powerhouses AECOM, Bechtel National and CH2M Hill, which were required as part of the contract to funnel a percentage of those funds to small, disadvantaged and women-owned businesses.
In 2009, Federal Engineers & Constructors awarded a $2 million contract to Sage Tec. Sage Tec, however, was owned by Laura Shikashio – the wife of former company vice president Larry Burdge. “Ms. Shikashio knowingly misrepresented Sage Tec to be a qualified disadvantaged small business in order to be eligible for” the contract, court records state.
The whistleblower in the case was Salina Savage, who discovered the scheme and filed a lawsuit that was later joined by federal prosecutors. In her suit, Savage wrote that she learned that WCH’s contracting officer, Dennis Houston, began shopping for shell companies that would qualify for the contracts that otherwise would go to small or disadvantaged businesses.