Contractor Faces Jail Time For Fronting As A Black- Owned Construction Business
A contractor from Clayton, Missouri, is going to jail for scheming against minority-owned businesses.
Brian Kowert, Sr., co-owner and chief operating officer/contractor of HBD Construction Inc., was sentenced on June 15, 2023 to 18 months in prison and fined $100,000 for orchestrating a plan to falsify participation in minority business enterprise programs, KSDK 5 reports.
The St. Louis U.S. Attorney’s Office said Kowert pled guilty to two counts of wire fraud in January.
Court documents show Kowert “recruited an elderly Black business owner as a pass-through, paying him $2,000 in order to pass through hundreds of thousands of dollars to non-minority owned and operated business.”
That elderly man Charles Kirkwood, the 83-year-old owner of Midwestern Construction, told Fox 2 that “he was used.” Kirkwood was recruited as a contractor to do carpentry work on projects with Kowert.
“I don’t know what all he was doing really, to be honest with you; I’m not sure,” he said.
The building in question is owned by a business that law officials say is also a victim. Court records indicate “Greater Goods,” the company Kowert acted as a project manager for, knew about the scheme and moved to the city, renovating a building to give back.
Because of the scheme, the business lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax incentives after the plot was revealed. Hal Goldsmith, a federal assistant prosecutor, Kowert’s shady behavior set back years of work to fix discrimination in the construction field.
“We’re not going to tolerate it,” Goldsmith said. “This program is to right the wrong, if you will, of years and years of racism in the construction trades.”
Kowert’s attorney, Joel Schwartz, said his client a history of trying to make positive differences for MBEs or minority businesses and that the program “couldn’t possibly be more flawed.” He claims Kowert wants “to educate and teach so that there are more qualified MBEs to complete projects for the city.”