Fil-Am convicted in Virginia for defrauding US federal government

Published July 3, 2019, 12:38 PM

by Gabriela Baron & Minka Klaudia Tiangco

By Roy Mabasa 

A Filipino-American and former Virginia State delegate was sentenced Tuesday to two and a half years in prison for defrauding the United States federal government.

(Facebook: Ron Villanueva /MANILA BULLETIN)
(Facebook: Ron Villanueva /MANILA BULLETIN)

Ron A. Villanueva, a Virginia Beach Republican who served as delegate for the 21stDistrict of Virginia from 2010 to 2018, was earlier charged for improperly helping two Virginia Beach companies secure special government contracts they were not entitled to receive.

Early this year, he pleaded guilty to multiple charges including falsifying records and helping others file false documents.

Aside from the prison term, US District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith also ordered Villanueva to pay more than $524,000 in restitution, an amount he and his family reportedly received from the fraudulent contracts.

Reports from Virginia showed that Villanueva’s conviction stemmed from his involvement in two Virginia companies – SEK Solutions and Karda Systems – where he served, over the years, as both vice president and president of SEK and as a board member with Karda. SEK specialized in the sale of weapon and industrial storage products, while Karda was engaged in selling tactical gear.

Villanueva, together with Kahlil Naim of SEK, and his brother-in-law Samuel Caragan, worked to misrepresent the two firms as “socially or economically disadvantaged businesses” in order to qualify under the US Small Business Administration program that sets aside government contracts for women- and minority-owned companies.

According to reports, the scheme started in May 2005 during Villanueva’s first term as a Virginia Beach City Council member through about December 2014 when he was already in the House of Delegates.

During the court proceedings, Assistant US Attorney Daniel Young said Villanueva’s actions corrupted the intent of the special contracts, noting that the underlying program was supposed to help women- and minority-owned companies break into the government contracting business.

Villanueva’s lawyers sought leniency from the court, citing the Filipino-American’s time as a city councilman and state delegate and his dedication to helping the people of Hampton Roads in Virginia, including in Virginia Beach where a large number of Filipino-Americans are residing.

Prior to the sentencing, at least four witnesses testified on Villanueva’s behalf, and another 29 wrote the court letters of support.

Over the years, Villanueva would often travel to the Philippines, tagging along groups of doctors to conduct medical missions in the most blighted communities in the country..

“You have done good things, but that doesn’t put you above the law… The victims here are the people who didn’t get the contracts,” Judge Smith was quoted as saying during the court sentencing.

A father of four, Villanueva apologized to the court for his conduct. “I’m standing before you a broken man,” he said.
Villanueva made history in 2009 when he became the first Filipino-American to serve the Virginia state government, defeating then-incumbent Democratic Delegate Bobby Mathieson in the general election.