RICHLAND, Wash. - A Richland trucking company owner who filed suit against contractors at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Southeast Washington, now has a powerful partner.

Federal prosecutors have joined the lawsuit that accuses Contractors Washington Closure Hanford LLC. (WCH), and Federal Engineers and Constructors (FE & C), Inc. of claiming credit for doing tens of millions of dollars worth of business with subcontractors they knew were misrepresented as woman-owned small businesses.

The Department of Energy offers millions of dollars in incentives to contractors who hire woman or minority owned businesses for their projects.

The owner of a legitimate woman-owned small business, Salina Savage, uncovered the possible fraud after her company, Savage Logistics, lost out on a multimillion-dollar contract.

Savage uncovered information that showed the subcontractors awarded the jobs were formed under women s names but had no trucks, employees or other equipment to carry out the contracts.

The suit alleges the small companies were actually fronts for other, larger contractors who actually did the work.

Salina Savage said she went after the contractors after she lost out on a multimillion dollar contract to a company that had been in business for three months and the female owner was the only employee.

Savage said when she notified the contractors of the possible fraudulent activity, she was warned to stay quiet or she would never get another Hanford contract. She said that prompted her to keep digging.

The suit alleges tens of millions of tax payer dollars were awarded to the false companies.

Both contractors, WHC and FE&C, declined to talk to us about the accusations.

WHC did provide this written statement:

Washington Closure Hanford does not typically comment on pending litigation. However, supporting small business is one of our top goals on the River Corridor Closure Project.

We are proud that we have consistently exceeded our small business goals and have awarded nearly $1 billion in subcontracts to small businesses since the beginning of the project in 2005.

We believe the complaint has no merit and expect the court will reach the same conclusion.

Savage s company had two years of experience moving dangerous materials including radioactive items. Her company has continued to grow as she has transported radioactive materials for other contractors and expanded to non-nuclear shipping and other work.

Read Justice Department announcement of the case

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