Modified: July 27, 2018 11:40am
Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn and NYS Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott announce the arrest of a Western New York contractor, his office manager and a subcontractor on multiple felony charges of filing fraudulent documents falsely claiming they met State requirements of using minority-owned businesses on a public construction project.
Christopher Nichter, 57, of Lancaster, the owner of Nichter Construction, has been arraigned on ten counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, felonies.
Angela Quinn, 44, of Lancaster, the office manager of Nichter Construction, Inc., has been arraigned on two counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, felonies, as an accomplice to Christopher Nichter.
William McClendon, 41, of Niagara Falls, the owner of McClendon Asphalt Paving, a minority-owned business, has been arraigned on one count of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a felony.
Following an investigation by New York State Inspector General’s Office and the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, the three defendants are accused of filing documents with the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) falsely claiming that McClendon’s company performed work on a state project.
The investigation found that Nichter Construction entered into a contract with DASNY on November 5, 2015 to perform building improvements at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center in Buffalo, New York. The total value of this contract was $approximately $350,000.
Under Article 15A of the New York State Executive Law, Nichter was required to have a minimum of 13% minority business participation in the project. Nichter recruited William McClendon of McClendon Asphalt Paving to purportedly be the projects minority business participant. Nichter and Quinn submitted various documents to DASNY falsely claiming that McClendon Asphalt Paving was performing plumbing and electrical work on the project at a cost of nearly $44,000. McClendon also allegedly filed a document with DASNY claiming that his company was performing this work on the project.
It is alleged that Nichter instead contracted with other companies to perform both the plumbing and electric work. McClendon Asphalt Paving performed no work. McClendon, who was never seen at the job site, was to be paid a fee by Nichter, solely for the use of its identity in order to give the false appearance of minority business participation. This arrangement is generally referred to as a “pass through” and effectively deprives legitimate minority-owned businesses of opportunities to participate in public contracts.
“This law was enacted to give minority and women-owned businesses an opportunity to take part in these state-funded projects in an effort to increase diversity, so it’s frustrating that a minority-owned business would allegedly agree to lie and not do the work for a pay out,” said DA Flynn. “Our office is working hard to make sure these business owners are following state guidelines and not taking advantage of taxpayer dollars for their own benefit.”
“With corrupt intent, these defendants manipulated the contracting process to give their companies an unfair advantage on a public works project while effectively depriving legitimate minority-owned businesses of potential opportunities,” said Inspector General Leahy Scott. “The State’s laws and policies to encourage participation by minority- and woman-owned businesses are meant to help level the playing field for public contracts, not deceptively enrich those who skirt the rules. I thank District Attorney Flynn for his partnership on this case and will continue using all of the resources of my office to pursue anyone who corrupts the government contracting process.”
The three defendants were arraigned in before Buffalo City Court Judge Shannon M. Heneghan on Thursday, July 26. All were released on their own recognizance. If convicted, the defendants face 1 1/3 to 4 years on each charge.
DA Flynn and Inspector General Leahy Scott commend DASNY for their assistance with this investigation and the New York State Police for their assistance with the arrests.
The case is being prosecuted by Candace A. Vogel, Chief of the Erie County District Attorney’s Office Special Investigations and Prosecutions Bureau as well as Assistant District Attorneys Gary M. Ertel and Kelley A. Omel.
As are all persons accused of a crime, the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.