by Mike Vogel
Updated 4 yearss ago
Eduardo Blanchet appeared in Florida Trend’s Florida Small Business 2003-04 issue, a smiling entrepreneur who had the Orlando franchise for Berlitz, the language education company. Post-9/11, two-thirds of his business disappeared, and he looked to a government contract to help his small, minority-owned business grow. Happily, he won one, a five-year, $50-million contract for his B.I.B. Consultants from the U.S. Special Operations Command based in Tampa to teach foreign languages to Special Forces troops. It was a big step up from his previous $365,000 in annual sales.
Blanchet embodied the immigrant made good. The son of a diplomat, he was born in Argentina and grew up there and in Brazil and Costa Rica. He became a diplomat for Argentina himself to the former Soviet Union and Austria before deciding the United States — the land of opportunity for hard workers and a good place for his four children — should be his home. He moved to Florida in 1995, joined the Rotary and SHARE International and, among other good deeds, went on missions to South America to provide free surgeries to underprivileged kids with clef lip. He donated summer language instruction at UCF and was a guest speaker at Rollins College. In 2010, he became a U.S. citizen.
The Special Ops deal was so good that Blanchet’s company no longer qualified as a small business in 2007 when Special Operations Command put out for bid a $100-million small-business set-aside contract to teach language and culture to troops. So Blanchet started a new company, and it won the contract. Therein lies his fall. He put a sham owner down for the new company, MiLanguages. That’s a felony in the government’s view. A year ago, he was convicted of conspiracy and five counts of wire fraud.
“Federal contracts should never be awarded to persons who lie in order to claim eligibility for contracts intended for small businesses,” said Inspector General for the U.S. Small Business Administration Peggy E. Gustafson in a news release.
Blanchet is appealing. His attorney, Amy Tingley, declined comment. He’s serving three years at the minimum-security federal prison camp at Saufley Field at the Pensacola Naval Air Station.