The Oakland City Attorney’s Office has filed a fraud complaint accusing a local businessman, a prominent local taxi company and others of engaging in a scheme to defraud taxpayers through redevelopment grants. The suit, which was filed in Alameda County Superior Court on Thursday and was brought under the California False Claims Act, alleges that businessman Dhar Mann and other defendants submitted about two dozen bogus claims for redevelopment money.
The suit is based on evidence from investigations by City Auditor Courtney Ruby and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley. The city attorney’s office said evidence documented in their lawsuit shows that Mann and the other defendants, including Friendly Cab Co., received at least six grant contracts to pay for development plans, facade renovation and other work at five Oakland properties, including the headquarters of the taxi company, which is owned by Mann’s family.
The suit alleges 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. City Attorney Barbara Parker said in a statement, “This money was granted to revitalize Oakland neighborhoods and encourage business investment. It is shocking that anyone would defraud taxpayers and cheat the community out of these resources.”
According to the suit, Mann and the other defendants received at least $75,000 in city and redevelopment Agency money in the past several years. The suit alleges that about $30,000 was used to pay for improvements at the intended properties and about $45,000 was paid based on false, forged or misleading claims and documentation. It claims that in other instances, the 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, according to the city attorney’s office. The suit seeks $230,000 in civil penalties and $135,000 in damages plus attorney’s fees and costs. In May, the district attorney’s office charged Mann with multiple felonies for the alleged fraud against the city. Mann’s attorney, Raj Chatterjee, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment today.
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