OAKLAND, CA – Today City Attorney Barbara Parker filed a lawsuit against a local businessman who is facing felony criminal charges for defrauding the City, a prominent taxi company owned by his family and other defendants for cheating Oakland taxpayers by submitting about two dozen bogus claims for redevelopment grant money.
The lawsuit, brought under the California False Claims Act, is based on evidence from investigations by City Auditor Courtney Ruby and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley.
Evidence supporting the City’s lawsuit shows that businessman Dhar Mann and the other defendants received at least six grant contracts to pay for development plans, façade renovation and other work at five Oakland properties, including the headquarters of the Friendly Cab taxi company owned by Mann’s family. The evidence shows that the defendants participated in a scheme to overbill the City for work on the properties, and in some cases, submitted claims for thousands of dollars of work that apparently was never done.
“This money was granted to revitalize Oakland neighborhoods and encourage business investment,” City Attorney Barbara Parker said. “It is shocking that anyone would defraud taxpayers and cheat the community out of these resources.”
According to the lawsuit, Mann and the other defendants received at least $75,000 in City and Redevelopment Agency money in the last several years. About $30,000 was used to pay for improvements at the intended properties. About $45,000 of that money was paid based on false, forged or misleading claims and documentation.
For example, on multiple occasions Mann secured cashier’s checks to pay contractors for work authorized under the grant contracts. But instead of paying the contractors, Mann deposited the cashier’s checks in his own bank account. He then submitted photocopies of the checks to the City – falsely claiming that the contractors had been paid – and received payments of grant funds as reimbursement. On the back of some checks, Mann wrote “Not used for purpose intended.”
In other instances, defendants negotiated with contractors to reduce their bills, but submitted false claims for reimbursement at the original, higher price. Other documents and checks submitted to the City contained false information.
The City’s lawsuit seeks $230,000 in civil penalties ($10,000 for each violation of the False Claims Act), damages of $135,000 (triple the amount of the payments made due to false claims, as allowed by the False Claims Act), plus attorney’s fees and costs.
In May of this year, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office charged Mann with multiple felonies for defrauding the City.
“I commend the City Attorney for prosecuting this case to the full extent of the law,” City Auditor Courtney Ruby said today. “This is a clear example of the degree to which my office and the City Attorney’s Office will go to catch anyone who is defrauding the City and make them pay. If you know of someone who is potentially defrauding the City, you can report it at 1-888-329-6390.”