In a remarkable video, Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth shames a man awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in IRS contracts.
Braulio Castillo is the owner of Signet Computers (also known as Strong Castle), a Virginia-based technology business certified as a service-disabled, veteran-owned company, which makes it eligible for government set-aside contracts. Castillo's hauled in roughly $500 million in such contracts, according to CBS News.
Castillo's relationship with the IRS has been the subject of a recent investigation, and Wednesday on Capitol Hill he got a talking-to so eloquent and so masterful that the website Gawker joked "it almost made his fraud worthwhile."
Castillo's injury--which allegedly earned his business the special status--was from breaking his foot nearly three decades ago at the U.S. Military Preparatory School, which he attended for nine months before playing football in college.
Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat from Illinois, lost her legs and the use of her right arm as a helicopter pilot in Iraq in 2004. She was awarded a Purple Heart for her combat injuries.
According to the House Oversight Committee, the fracture Castillo claimed he suffered didn't show up in X-rays taken at the time of his supposed injury. And Castillo doesn't even remember how he got injured in the first place.
That was more than enough for Castillo to earn the ire of decorated war hero Duckworth, who lost both her legs and the use of her right arm while serving as a helicopter pilot in Iraq.
But what really pushed her over the edge was a letter sent by Castillo to the VA as part of his efforts to secure government contracts.
"These are crosses that I bear due to my service to our great country and I would do it again to protect this great country," Castillo wrote.
"I’m so glad that you would be willing to play football in prep school again to protect this great country," Duckworth responded. "Shame on you, Mr. Castillo. Shame on you. You may not have broken any laws … but you certainly broke the trust of this great nation. You broke the trust of veterans. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans right now are waiting an average of 237 days for an initial disability rating. It is because people like you who are gaming the system are adding to that backlog that young men and women who are suffering from post-traumatic stress, who are missing limbs cannot get the compensation and the help that they need."
Watch the entire exchange from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing Wednesday:
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CHRISTINE LAGORIO-CHAFKIN is a writer, editor, and reporter whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Village Voice, and The Believer, among other publications. She is senior writer at Inc. @Lagorio