Last month, Fordham Law student and Stein Scholar William Passannante ’19 was honored, along with a team of prosecutors, for his work relating to a sizable government-contracting fraud.
The prosecution team, for which Passannante served as a paralegal for nearly two years, won an award from the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency for prosecuting a fraudulent scheme perpetrated by government subcontractor UFC Aerospace LLC.
“UFC Aerospace is a company that falsely certified itself with government contractors as a Woman-Owned Small Business,” said Passannante. “It’s something that the government takes very seriously. And it’s something that invites serious consequences, and I think the result here reflects that.”
In October of 2015, UFC Aerospace, along with its former president Douglas B. Davis, settled with the Manhattan U.S. attorney for just upwards of $20 million, resolving allegations that it had lied about having female ownership and management. The settlement came as the result of years’ worth of work by the SDNY Civil Frauds Unit, to which Passannante made a significant contribution.
“My primary responsibility was calculating damages, which was a surprisingly complex task,” said Passannante. “There was a huge amount of information, and it required a lot of effort to figure out what was relevant and what wasn’t relevant for what time periods. I worked with folks from across the federal government in gathering this information and figuring out how best to tackle it.”
This past October, the Council of Inspectors General recognized the UFC Aerospace prosecution team for its work on the UFC Aerospace prosecution, granting the team an Award for Excellence at its 19th Annual CIGIE Awards Ceremony.
Passannante said that he decided to pursue work with the SDNY Civil Frauds Unit after completing his undergraduate education at Oberlin College. Interested in a legal career, he wanted to test his aptitudes against experience. At SDNY, he was fortunate to happen upon a succession of mentors who directed his passion.
“I worked primarily with Assistant U.S. Attorney Ellen London on this case,” said Passannante. “I was involved in this crash-course on litigation, and Ellen really took the time to explain the significance of what we were doing.”
In addition to London, Passannante worked briefly with Assistant U.S. Attorney Mara Trager, who began the prosecution against UFC Aerospace but passed away before the case reached a settlement.
“Mara’s family went down to D.C. in October and went onstage to accept the award on the team’s behalf,” said Passannante. “Mara laid a lot of the groundwork that we were able to stand on later and come up with this favorable result, and it was really very touching to see her be recognized by the Inspectors General community after she had passed away.”
Passannante says that his experience working with the SDNY Civil Frauds Unit has not only solidified his desire to work in the legal field but has also helped direct his career aspirations and, consequently, his studies at Fordham.
“I am interested in going into white-collar law enforcement after graduation,” he said. “The notion that someone would try to curtail government services in pursuit of their own financial gain is something that really bothers me on a fundamental level. It’s something that I want to prevent professionally, and these last two years were certainly a formative part of my professional development.”