Federal retrial set in disabled-vet case

Two LR businessmen accused of fraud

A federal judge on Friday tentatively scheduled a retrial of Little Rock businessmen Ross Alan Hope and Mikel Kullander for Oct. 16.

Hope and Kullander were tried by a federal jury from Sept. 5 through Thursday on major-fraud charges, but a mistrial was declared after jurors reported being hopelessly deadlocked on the verdicts.

Hope, president of Powers of Arkansas, a commercial heating-and-air business, and Kullander, owner of Kullander Construction, are accused of defrauding the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration between 2008 and 2015 by falsely claiming that DAV Construction, a business they jointly formed in 2007, was headed by a service-disabled veteran.

Jim Wells, who is a 100 percent service-disabled veteran, agreed in 2007 to form DAV with Hope and Kullander, but the government contends that Hope and Kullander greatly exaggerated Wells' role to falsely portray him as being in charge of the business when in fact his role was a small one.

As a business owned by a service-disabled veteran, DAV got first dibs on million-dollar contracts for government projects. As a result, DAV was awarded $15.5 million in contracts over the seven-year period for work done for the VA and the FDA.

Accused of conspiring to commit major fraud, which is fraud involving more than $1 million, Hope and Kullander said they made good-faith efforts to comply with federal regulations and weren't trying to deceive anyone.

Prosecutors said their actions undercut true veteran-owned construction companies from taking advantage of a 2006 federal law designed to help veterans.

Metro on 09/16/2017