Federal re­trial set in dis­abled-vet case

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - LINDA SAT­TER

A federal judge on Fri­day ten­ta­tively sched­uled a re­trial of Lit­tle Rock busi­ness­men Ross Alan Hope and Mikel Kul­lan­der for Oct. 16.

Hope and Kul­lan­der were tried by a federal jury from Sept. 5 through Thursday on ma­jor-fraud charges, but a mis­trial was de­clared after ju­rors re­ported be­ing hope­lessly dead­locked on the ver­dicts.

Hope, pres­i­dent of Pow­ers of Arkansas, a com­mer­cial heat­ing-and-air busi­ness, and Kul­lan­der, owner of Kul­lan­der Con­struc­tion, are ac­cused of de­fraud­ing the U.S. De­part­ment of Veter­ans Af­fairs and the U.S. Food & Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion be­tween 2008 and 2015 by falsely claim­ing that DAV Con­struc­tion, a busi­ness they jointly formed in 2007, was headed by a ser­vice-dis­abled vet­eran.

Jim Wells, who is a 100 per­cent ser­vice-dis­abled vet­eran, agreed in 2007 to form DAV with Hope and Kul­lan­der, but the gov­ern­ment con­tends that Hope and Kul­lan­der greatly ex­ag­ger­ated Wells’ role to falsely por­tray him as be­ing in charge of the busi­ness when in fact his role was a small one.

As a busi­ness owned by a ser­vice-dis­abled vet­eran, DAV got first dibs on mil­lion-dol­lar con­tracts for gov­ern­ment projects. As a re­sult, DAV was awarded $15.5 mil­lion in con­tracts over the seven-year pe­riod for work done for the VA and the FDA.

Ac­cused of con­spir­ing to com­mit ma­jor fraud, which is fraud in­volv­ing more than $1 mil­lion, Hope and Kul­lan­der said they made good-faith ef­forts to com­ply with federal reg­u­la­tions and weren’t try­ing to de­ceive any­one.

Prose­cu­tors said their ac­tions un­der­cut true vet­eran-owned con­struc­tion com­pa­nies from tak­ing ad­van­tage of a 2006 federal law de­signed to help veter­ans.

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