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A host of Southern California contractors has agreed to pay the federal government $1.9 million to settle claims that they made fraudulent allegations in order to win bids on major construction projects at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and at Camp Pendleton.

Parties including F-Y Inc. of Vista and its president Robert Yowell, RQ Construction in Carlsbad, and Harper Construction, Inc., of San Diego are accused by Rickey Howard, a former employee of codefendant Frazier Masonry in Lancaster, of falsely claiming to represent small firms owned by women, minorities, and "other disadvantaged groups."

Under federal Small Business Administration guidelines, a certain percentage of work performed under government contracts is to be done by firms designated as disadvantaged small businesses, a description Department of Justice representatives say does not encompass any of the defendants' operations.

Under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, Howard is entitled to share the proceeds of the settlement with the feds. He stands to pocket $393,383 as a result.

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