NORFOLK — Former Virginia Beach Del. Ron Villanueva reached a deal with federal prosecutors Tuesday and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, according to court documents.
As part of the plea deal, the federal government will seek restitution in the amount of $1,040,000, “which represents the total financial benefit received by Villanueva in this case,” according to the plea deal.
Villanueva, 48, also agrees to cooperate with investigators “truthfully and completely,” which will include testifying for grand juries and submitting to polygraph tests. In exchange, the government will drop the other three charges against him.
The charges stem from Villanueva’s work with SEK Solutions LLC. Federal prosecutors said Villanueva and unnamed co-conspirators “made numerous false, fraudulent, and misleading statements to the Small Business Administration regarding (i) SEK’s eligibility for participation in the 8(a) program,” as well as the company’s relationship with a supplier.
According to court documents, Villanueva began working SEK Solutions, “in or about 2005.”
During part of the conspiracy, Villanueva was a member of the Virginia General Assembly, and in one instance used his House of Delegates letterhead to send a letter to the SBA in support of an application to participate in the 8(a) program, knowing that it contained false and misleading statements about who actually operated the company, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
The SBA 8(a) is a federal program which provides contracting advantages for companies owned by “socially and economically disadvantaged people or entities,” according to the SBA website. Eligible businesses must be 51 percent owned by one or more women.
Prosecutors said “participated in a nine-year conspiracy involving over $80 million in fraudulently obtained government contracts.”
“More specifically, Villanueva conspired with others to help two Virginia Beach companies secure Small Business Administration contracts that had been set aside for minority-owned businesses,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Villanueva, prosecutors said, received more than $1 million from the transaction.
Villanueva was indicted Jan. 9 on four felonies, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, falsification of records and aiding with false written statements. He pleaded not guilty to the charges on Jan. 17, and a jury trial was scheduled for June 4, according to arraignment documents from the case.
Villanueva represented Virginia Beach in the House of Delegates between 2010 and 2018. He was defeated in November 2017 by political newcomer Kelly Fowler, who is now delegate.
The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and could include a fine of up to $250,000, full restitution, forfeiture of assets, and up to three years probation.
Sentencing is scheduled for July 2 in Norfolk’s federal courthouse.