Lee County goes to trial against VR Labs, claiming fraud

Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Photo by WINK News.

In 2010, the Lee County Board of County Commissioners awarded VR Labs a a multi-million-dollar grant, which was an incentive to bring new jobs to the area. The commissioners thought they had struck a great deal. However, it became clear it was a bogus deal for the county when those jobs were never created.

Lee County trials against VR Labs for committing fraud began Thursday in downtown Fort Myers.

“I’m just surprised,” John Kocher said. “Where are the checks and balances on things? I know has to be. That’s what government is set up for.”

Lee County gave Kay and Robert Gow, the owners of VR Labs, a nearly $5 million grant to bring hundreds of jobs to the area that were never created.

Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass said the county has prepared new economic, incentive rules to follow as a way prevent a conundrum like this from happening again.

“We changed the policy a few years ago,” Pendergrass said. “So if we do give any incentives to companies, we do get reimbursed. There’s a bond that’s held, and there’s also a set that goes back to the county. We’re actually doing business with a legitimate company like Hertz for example, so they actually exist.”

Other aspects of the new rules include financial audits and background checks of company history.

The county approved a more-than $300,000 incentive package for NeoGenomics Laboratories in Lee County. The company has to create 300 jobs before it receives taxpayer money through the incentive.

Trust WINK News to update you on continued trial proceedings.

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