A Franklin construction firm got a family member to pose as a disadvantaged Black business owner to win Army contracts set aside for such enterprises, federal investigators say.
The investigation claims that Nikki Platt’s company, Broadway Construction, with an address in Milwaukee, was a front to funnel $7 million in government contracts set aside for minority companies to Platt Construction, her father’s firm.
Details were revealed in a recently unsealed application for a search warrant, filed last year, by an agent with the Inspector General’s Office of the General Services Administration, which is in charge of federal buildings.
It sought to search information kept by a technical solutions company that provided internet, network and server operations, plus IT equipment, support and maintenance for Platt Construction and Broadway Construction.
No charges had been filed as of Wednesday. Neither Nikki Platt nor her father, James Platt, returned messages seeking comment.
A 2015 article in the Daily Reporter, a construction industry publication, said Nikki Platt, 44, was joining her family’s construction firm as office manager and director of marketing after a career in musical theater in New York City.
She also used to operate Nikki’s Fabulous Feet Dance Studio in Kenosha, and helped stage musicals at her alma mater, St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy, in Kenosha.
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In applications for certification as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, Platt represented she was Black, and that Broadway didn’t share office space, employees, finances or operations with any other company.
“Contrary to the ethnicity information on the application, Nicole Platt’s Wisconsin Driver’s license shows her to be a blond, blue-eyed, white female,” the affidavit states. “Other evidence, as further described herein, demonstrates that both then and now, Broadway
Construction has a close and ongoing relationship with Platt Construction.”
Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation rejected Broadway’s DBE application. In 2019, she applied to the Small Business Administration for qualification to bid under a federal set-aside program. The SBA rejected Broadway because it didn’t appear to have equipment or employees, and because Platt — who had been a dancer and in the dance business until 2015 — didn’t have a background in construction.
Later in 2019, Broadway won HUBZone certification from the SBA. In her application, Platt said the company was located in a Historically Underutilized Business Zone and at least 35% of its employees lived in the same zone.
That application did not include a claim by Platt to be Black; her driver’s license was part of the application.
From 2019 to 2021, Broadway won six HUBZone set-aside contracts worth $7 million from the U.S. Army for a variety of projects at Fort McCoy. The Army relied on the SBA designation that Broadway Construction was eligible for the contracts.
According to the investigator, though Broadway had an address at a barber shop that was within a qualifying zone, the firm only had four employees, none of whom were construction workers or tradesmen. The four also worked for Platt.
The affidavit says that Platt later self-certified to another government database that Broadway Construction was a disadvantaged, Black, woman-owned business and HUBZone certified.
The affidavit said investigators conducted surveillance on job sites, reviewed bank transactions between Platt Construction and Broadway and emails between Nikki Platt and various other contractors, accountants and insurers. According to the government, it shows how Broadway functioned as a mere pass-through for work done by Platt.
Contact Bruce Vielmetti at (414) 224-2187 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @ProofHearsay.