Edwards Hines Jr. VA Hospital has ended more than $700,000 in federal contracts with a registered sex offender to provide cleaning and janitorial services to prevent COVID-19  after being questioned about the hire, USA Today reported.

USA Today was found that Ezekiel Lopez’s company, America’s Best at Work, was hired on to work at the Illinois-based VA even though he served three years in prison for sexually abusing two teenage girls that were under his care.

Government contractors must state whether they have been convicted of a felony in the past two years on their applications, the newspaper reported. Lopez was  convicted in 2007, documents show. When USA Today began questioning Lopez’s background, the VA terminated its relationship with the contractor.

Lopez, 49, is a veteran, an American Indian, and a small business owner. He may have received preference on his contract application as federal procurement laws look to help those contractors that are disadvantaged.

The businessman was convicted of criminal sexual abuse, sexual assault, and sexual assault on a victim between the ages of 13 and 17, according to the sex offender registry.  He spent three years in an Illinois state prison and another two years on parole before he was released.

The federal procurement process needs reform some suggest. Robert Burton, a Washington, D.C., attorney who served as a career procurement official in the White House, told USA Today, “It’s disturbing. Especially if it’s a small business, you want to look at the business owner and whether they are responsible.”

Lopez’s company has received eight federal contract awards from the VA dating back to 2014, but the $700,000 contract was the largest, USA Today reported.

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