HUD bars contractor from work Key figure at Botech had been suspended from federal contracts

3-year prohibition agreed to

June 13, 1998|By John B. O'Donnell | John B. O'Donnell,SUN STAFF

U.S. housing officials have banned a Baltimore contractor and a key employee from working on federally funded projects for three years, because they flouted an earlier ban on the employee.

The bans confirm temporary suspensions imposed April 2 on Botech Inc. and Timothy Lanocha, the employee, by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development because the company used Lanocha on city housing agency jobs while he was barred. When suspended, Botech was preparing to undertake an additional $1.5 million worth of work for the city housing agency.

Messages left with Botech, Lanocha and their lawyers were not answered yesterday.

HUD acted after The Sun reported on the relationship between Botech and Lanocha. Lanocha had been under a two-year ban, officially called a debarment, from February 1995 to February 1997. Lanocha had accepted that ban after acknowledging that he had paid off city housing employees while he headed Lanocha Construction Inc. and after being convicted of lying to a grand jury.

While a federal investigation of payoffs to city housing employees was focusing on Lanocha, Botech was incorporated by Lanocha's father-in-law, the late Carlos E. Oreamuno, in May 1994. Oreamuno owned 51 percent of the company and Lanocha's wife, Cristina, owned 39 percent. Botech won about $4 million worth of work from the city housing agency, including the $1.5 million that it lost after the suspensions.

Records show that city Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III was told of the Lanocha-Botech connection in mid-1995. He said in January that "the issue of Botech being a Lanocha front has come up for several years."

As he has previously, Henson defended the hiring of Botech yesterday, saying he had followed legal advice on the matter, that HUD rules were unclear and that he was bound to accept qualified contractors who submitted the lowest bids.

HUD told Botech in April that it was proposing to bar the company for three years because it "knowingly did business with an ineligible person" -- Lanocha -- and submitted false payroll information on two contracts with the city. According to HUD, Botech failed to respond to the threatened ban within the 30 days it was given, prompting final action.

In April, the agency also proposed an indefinite ban on Lanocha. But Lanocha agreed with HUD to accept a three-year ban. HUD also imposed a three-year ban on AHL Inc., which Lanocha established as a consultant to Botech. Botech officials have said Lanocha was paid for his work through AHL.

All the three-year bans end April 1, 2001.

Spokesman Stan Vosper said HUD could demand that Henson's agency reimburse it for federal funds channeled to Botech, but he would not comment further. In addition, Vosper said, HUD could ask the Justice Department to pursue Botech for the return of the money. "There's still the possibility that that could happen," he said.

Pub Date: 6/13/98

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