U.S. Attorney General’s Office declines to prosecute potential fraud with bidding for Wilmington VA Clinic
By Ann McAdams | January 26, 2021 at 11:12 AM EST – Updated January 26 at 12:35 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – The U.S. Attorney General’s Office has declined to prosecute a case of potential fraud surrounding the Wilmington VA Clinic. WECT first broke the story in 2015 about the high price the VA was paying to lease the land at the airport for the clinic, and the nearly $300,000 a month more to lease the building.
At the time, the VA was locked into a 20-year lease with a private Wisconsin-based company that owned the Wilmington facility. Rent payments over the life of the lease totaled more than $68 million. Commercial real estate brokers said the rate the VA was paying for the clinic was about twice the going rate for prime medical office space in Wilmington.
The IG had additional concerns about the separate bidding process to build and lease the clinic itself. The VA’s Office of Construction and Facilities Management (CFM) claimed they got 14 competing offers to build the clinic, but they were only able to produce two of those offers for investigators, despite federal requirements to keep that paperwork.
The Inspector General’s Office requested copies of the bids eight different times over the course of their investigation and never got them, which made it impossible to determine if the VA chose the bid that was in the tax payers best interest.
“CFM’s inability to provide the [Office of Inspector General’s] requested documentation represents a potential risk of fraud. Therefore, the OIG’s Office of Audits and Evaluations referred this lease to the OIG’s Office of Investigations for review,” the OIG wrote in their 2018 report.
The Office of Investigations completed that review and gave its findings to the US Attorney General’s Office, which declined to prosecute based on the available information. The case was officially closed in April 2020. WECT has requested documents to help explain how the Attorney General reached that decision, and will provide them if our Freedom of Information Act request is fulfilled.
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