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On June 26, 2013, Obama Deputy IRS Director for Enterprise Networks and Tier Systems, Greg Roseman (also the Washington, DC Metro area IRS Contracting Officer), invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination to avoid answering questions before Rep. Darrell Issa's [R-CA] House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing dealing with questionable IRS contracts awarded to Braulio Castillo's recently acquired company, Signet Computers, which was rebranded as Strong Castle. Signet Computers had $250 thousand in annual sales prior to the Castillo purchase. Yet within six months this relatively small, virtually unknown IT company—without any help from lobbyists—was awarded over a dozen contracts from the IRS that were potentially worth more than $500 million. Before Castillo bought Signet, the small Internet technology company not only had no federal government contracts, it had never chased them.

In February, 2013 as the House Oversight Committee was investigating Castillo's relationship with Roseman, Castillo told CNS News that he had no personal relationships with anyone at the Internal Revenue Service. Roseman, it turns out, advised Castillo to purchase Signet, telling him in December, 2011 that if he bought Signet, the company would "...be Fortune 500 in no time."

As the House Oversight probe of the IRS unfolded, the relationship between a high ranked IRS official and Castillo was uncovered. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa [D-CA] noted that "...by inappropriately using a personal relationship and abusing a provision designed to help disadvantaged businesses, the IRS and Strong Castle have made a mockery of fair and open competition for government contracts." The report noted that Strong Castle and Roseman kept the friendship a secret from other IRS employees and officials.

Over 350 text messages between Castillo and Roseman showed a friendship much closer than the "arms-length" relationship required by the IRS between a contracting officer and a customer. The House Oversight Committee noted that many of the messages contained homophobic slurs and other inappropriate remarks that suggested to the committee that a problematic close relationship existed between the contracting officer and the customer. With gaping holes in the text messaging sequence (at critical contract junctures), Castillo told Congress that months of text messages had accidentally been deleted and simply were no longer available.

The House Oversight Committee report found that Castillo gained an advantage over its competition by deceitfully receiving a socioeconomic HUBzone business designation by making false representations to the Small Business Administration. When Castillo bought the Leesburg, VA based Signet Company, he moved the renamed business to Washington's Chinatown because Chinatown was designated as a government "hub zone," which means because those working and living there were minority business owners, and Chinatown was favored when bidding for government contracts.

Just before Castillo purchased Signet he filed a disability claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs, citing significant pain in his foot from an injury he received in military prep school some years earlier.

In the House Oversight Committee hearing, double amputee Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth [D-IL] took umbrage at Castillo's VA disability status. Castillo claimed to have suffered an injury to his ankle while playing football in the West Point Preparatory School in 1984. The VA gave him a 30% service-connected disability classification. For him to get any type of service-related disability rating for a twisted ankle while playing high school football is criminal. Not just bordering on criminality, but criminal.

If Congress authorized it, then whomever proffered that provision needs to surrender his or her congressional pension for legalizing it for political opportunists to steal from the American people. Whatever VA official approved a disability rating for Castillo needs to be terminated, and he or she needs to forfeit his or her VA pension.

Whatever government official showed Castillo how to game the system also needs to forfeit his job and his IRS pension. (But, I suspect there's a White House accomplice in here somewhere—perhaps helping pay back a major campaign donor—which Castillo does not appear to be unless his donations were not reported or they were funneled through a strawman.)

I can't imagine IRS official Greg Roseman teaching an acquaintance how to game the federal government just because he's a "buddy." There are only two reasons you risk your career helping someone else game the system. First, someone higher up the political food chain tells you to do it (which means your butt is covered if the flak ever hits the fan). Or, second, you expect to profit from your advise.) The quid pro quo you expect in return for the favor has to be far greater than the potential consequences of that help. While the provision in the law that allows gaming the system was likely inserted specifically to allow someone (probably one undeserving campaign donor) one-upmanship in the bidding process, was not illegal, I'm certain that an unscrupulous contracting official teaching a contract bidder how to game the system is very much illegal.

Duckworth quoted a passage from the letter Castillo submitted to the VA in which Castillo described the severe pain he still suffers from his foot injury as one of the "...crosses that I bear in my service to our great country. And, I would do it again to protect this great country." Keep in mind, this injury occurred in prep school. When he went to a military college, Castillo never complained of "severe pain" from his "injury." In fact, there is no record he ever complained of pain of any type in his foot. Castillo never served time in the military nor, it seems, applied for a commission. However, under S.933, the Veterans and Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991, amended in 2008, shysters like Castillo could claim a war-related injury from playing football in prep school. Which, of course, he did.

The law, proffered in 1989 by Sen. Tom Harkin [D-IA] allowed Castillo to defraud the US needs to be amended to remove the provision that allows 16- or 17-year old prep school students to declare they have service-related injuries from playing football in high school, and use that "injury" to gain a 30% service-related disability without ever joining any branch of the military or facing an enemy of this nation in combat.

I'd say Tammy Duckworth—a Democrat—would agree with me. When she began tearing Castillo a new one (and we aren't talking about ankles), she asked him: "Does your foot hurt? My feet hurt, too..." remember she is a double amputee Iraqi War veteran. "In fact, the balls of my feet burn continuously, and I feel like there's a nail being hammered into my heel right now. So, I can understand pain and suffering and how service connection can actually cause long-term, unremitting, unyielding, unstoppable pain.

"I'm sorry that twisting your ankle in high school has now come back to hurt you in such a painful way. But it was also opportune for you to gain this status for your business." Duckworth went on to query Castillo about his disability service rating for his twisted ankle. Castillo received a disability rating of 30%, enabling him to receive preferred treatment in bidding competitions with the IRS. Duckworth, who had both legs blown off from a roadside bomb in Iraq, also lost an arm which was reattached. Her disability rating? Twenty percent. What's wrong with that picture? Duckworth's rating was based on the numbers. Castillo's rating was based on politics.

Sarcastically, Duckworth continued. "I'm so glad you were willing to play football in prep school to protect this great country," she said. "Shame on you, Mr. Castillo. Shame on you. You may not have broken any laws...But you broke the trust of this great nation. You broke the trust of veterans. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans right now are waiting an average of 237 days for an initial disability rating, and it because of people like you who are gaming the system are adding to that backlog so that young men and women who are suffering from post-traumatic stress, who are missing limbs, cannot get the compensation—and the help that they need. You, who never picked up a weapon in defense of this great nation, very cynically took advantage of the system. You broke the faith of this nation. You broke the faith with the men and women who lie in hospitals right now. Twisting your leg in prep school is not defending this nation, Mr. Castillo."

It is the sacred obligation of sitting members of Congress, in both Houses, to determine who inserted the gaming provision in the law, and repeal it. It's too late to cry over spilled milk, but its not too late to prevent political hucksters from profiting any longer from a system designed specifically to benefit only those who served, and shed their blood, in combat. While it will never happen, I honestly believe Castillo needs to be charged with defrauding the government. He has already lost his HUBzone rating thanks to Congressman Issa, but that's not enough. He needs to be made to repay every penny, with interest, he has received from his bids through Roseman. If it can be shown that Roseman profited financially from any of those contracts, he needs to face criminal charges. If not, he still needs to be terminated and banned from holding any job—even that of janitor—in the federal government. If it can be shown that Castillo profited Roseman in any way for his assistance in securing bids, Castillo needs to face a lifetime ban from bidding on contracts with any federal, State, county or municipal contracting officials.

 

Just Say No
Copyright 2009 Jon Christian Ryter.
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