Janet LeGrand, 47, was arrested July 18, charged with the felony crime of organized fraud with an attempted scheme to defraud Homestead of more than $50,000.
LeGrand, AKA Janet Garcia, called herself President and CEO of the Bleu Network, a company supposedly the leader in Public/Private Partnership (P3) developments.
It is allegedly part of an elaborate fraud.
The company bid on Homestead advertised development of Homestead’s downtown multi-modal project with parking garage on October 19, 2016. Florida P3 law is very precise about the P3 process. It requires a P3 applicant to keep its bid open until a winning bidder is selected.
Bleu Network approached Florida City about a nearly identical project about a mile from Homestead’s multi-modal project on January 11, 2017.
The City of Homestead filed suit against Bleu Network on March 13, 2017 for unfair tradepractices to stop the competing proposal.
The Bleu Network had first filed a bid protest on December 13, 2016 followed by a formal petition on March 29 protesting Homestead’s decision as improper. On May 22, the company filed a civil law suit against the City.
On April 27, 2017, LeGrand’s attorney contacted the City of Homestead’s attorneys by email. The message stated LeGrand was willing to walk away from the bid protest in exchange for a City payment of $155,000 to cover her expenses. That attorney withdrew as council in the case in June.
Both in review of P3 bidders and later with an FBI Task Force investigation, Homestead police uncovered substantial misrepresentations by LeGrand and the company.
Bleu’s website stated LeGrand was a Civil Engineer with over 25 years of experience. The Florida Board of Professional Engineers investigator found no license or registration for her.
The website listed her education as a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Miami in 1992. Under subpoena, the University stated it found no records that LeGrand (or Garcia) had ever enrolled or attended classes.
The website listed offices in Madrid, Buenos Aires, Montreal and Miami’s Brickell Avenue. A former Bleu employee said the website was meant to be misleading and there were no offices. Bleu Network was not associated with the Brickell Avenue address that police visited.
The investigation uncovered falsehoods about the company’s financial partners and banking methods. One listed bank responded about its supposed letter of support, “We can say with almost certainty that this letter is not authentic. We have come to the conclusion that the letter is forged.”
Homestead’s P3 bid process required additional clarifications and background as bidders for the large project were assessed. Bleu Network was asked to provide business references for similar projects it had worked on. Of Bleu’s eight listed references, four responded to investigators denying any knowledge of the company.
The company was asked to disclose any civil and criminal litigation as part of its background check. Bleu’s application admitted it was involved in litigation “from time to time” but denied that would affect its ability to perform.
In fact, Bleu Network and LeGrand (or Janet Garcia) were involved in at least eight civil cases, the most recent in March of 2016 for $61,215. They also failed to disclose many wage complaints from employees.
Former Homestead Mayor Lynda Bell was contacted by City Manager George Gretsas in September of 2016 about the deadline for Bleu Network to apply for the P3 project. Bell is listed as one of the fifteen Bleu employees complaining about not being paid.
Bleu Network failed to file any audited financial statements as required by Homestead under the P3 application. It appeared to rely on the reputation of another company, AECEOM, which is the actual leader of the P3 industry. Finally, photographs and artwork on the company’s website were taken from other company’s projects or were stock Internet photos. A former employee said the deception was deliberate.
A person convicted of organized fraud with a value over $50,000 is guilty of a first degree felony under Florida law. Felony convictions are punished by substantial jail time, fines and restitution. Time will tell if the prosecutor’s office might negotiate a plea agreement or is prepared to go to trial.