TesTech, Inc. was kicked out of the federal disadvantaged business enterprise program on Wednesday after a hearing officer overruled the Washington Twp. company’s appeal and said wealthy Washington Twp. developers David C. and Shery Oakes deceived the government to obtain lucrative taxpayer-funded contracts.
Steve Faulkner, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation, said the decertification is immediate.
The state moved to decertify TesTech as a DBE after a Dayton Daily News investigation raised questions about the true ownership of the firm. In October 2011 the Daily News reported that the Oakeses controlled TesTech for years while Sherif Aziz claimed to own the company. TesTech won millions of dollars in public contracts after Aziz in 2005 was given disadvantaged business status for TesTech.
Hearing officer Stephanie B. McCloud said TesTech “has always been and continues to be a dba (doing business as) division of the Oakes’ company CESO.” She said David Oakes is the owner of TesTech.
“It is obvious and apparent that Mr. Aziz has been a loyal and faithful employee of the Oakeses,” wrote McCloud. “As such, he has been willing to put his family and his own reputation at risk to help the Oakeses achieve an advantage by engaging in a high stakes game of deceiving USDOT and ODOT.”
David Oakes owns CESO Inc. and Shery Oakes owns Design Homes and Development Co. The couple, who are married, and Aziz could not be reached for comment.
In July 2011 under sealed warrant the FBI raided the offices of TesTech, which like the Oakeses’ companies is in the Galleria building, 8534 Yankee St.
In a December letter to Aziz informing him of the plan to decertify TesTech the state cited the Daily News findings, some of which were submitted as evidence during his three-day appeals hearing in April. On Tuesday McMcCloud issued her report and pointed to evidence that Aziz and the Oakeses tried to disassociate themselves in an effort to save the DBE certification. A memo attributed to Aziz said the company would lose $5.75 million by 2013 without DBE status.
She found that Aziz - an Egyptian American - is not black or eligible for automatic disadvantaged status. McCloud said Aziz did not prove he was financially eligible for the DBE program and that it was impossible to determine his worth from the complex maze of ownerships he shared with his wife or the Oakeses.
“As the Oakeses became more knowledgeable about the system and the lucrative nature of the business, the paperwork became cleaner and the disguise more sophisticated,” McCloud wrote. “The paperwork is a curtain.”