Wednesday, October 4, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, October 4, 2023 | Back issues
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Vagueness Dooms RICO Suit Over D.C. Projects

WASHINGTON (CN) - Claims that Washington rigged the bidding process for infrastructure projects are too vague to advance, a federal judge ruled.

The ruling stems from a 2014 complaint that Cheeks of North America filed against 40 different defendants, alleging "an extensive fraud and conspiracy including most of the D.C. government," U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth wrote.

Lamberth dismissed the complaint Friday as too vague in violation of civil procedure.

"Defendants cannot adequately respond to plaintiffs' claims without some indication of at least who the 'known' defendants or injured parties might be or how such persons are involved with the issues raised by plaintiffs," the ruling states. "Vague reference to responsible parties or affected victims is simply not enough."

Lamberth slammed Cheecks for trying "to deprive defendants of the chance to respond to [its] accusations or provide a defense."

"That is not how litigation proceeds in this court," the ruling states.

Though Cheeks can rein in claims with a less-secretive amended complaint, Lamberth refused to give the contractor another chance with claims against city officials and Western Surety Co., which Cheeks claims knowingly issued bonds for the bogus deals.

"Plaintiffs have not included facts about who engaged in the alleged fraudulent activity, when it allegedly took place, or the district defendants, council defendants, or Western Surety defendants' part in the alleged fraud," the judge said. "Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim for violations of the RICO Act or a pattern of racketeering activity against the district defendants, council defendants, or Western Surety defendants."

Cheeks also filed a sprawling federal antitrust complaint back in 2010, regarding its six bids on Water and Sewer Authority projects and two bids on Department of Transportation jobs.

In that 213-page action, Cheeks claimed that collusion kept Washington from giving it the job as the lowest bidder.

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