Federal Judge Denies Defendants ArmorGroup’s and Wackenhut’s Motions to Dismiss False Claims Act Whistleblower Lawsuit Involving Fraudulent Practices at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul
ALEXANDRIA, Va., Aug. 27/ — Judge James Cacheris of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has denied Defendants ArmorGroup North America (“AGNA”), ArmorGroup International, Wackenhut Services, Inc., and Cornelius Medley’s motions to dismiss whistleblower James Gordon’s lawsuit brought under the False Claims Act.
On September 9, 2009, Mr. Gordon, former Director of Operations of AGNA, filed a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit under the False Claims Act in United States District Court for the District of Columbia, charging that ArmorGroup management retaliated against him for whistleblowing, internally and to the United States Department of State (“DoS”), about illegalities committed by ArmorGroup in the performance of AGNA’s contracts with the United States to provide security services at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan and at the U.S. Naval base in Bahrain.
The Complaint charges that during Mr. Gordon’s seven-month tenure as Director of Operations, he investigated, attempted to stop, and reported to DoS a myriad of serious violations committed by ArmorGroup, including:
- Severely understaffing the guard force necessary to protect the U.S. Embassy;
- Allowing AGNA managers and employees to frequent brothels notorious for housing trafficked women in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act;
- Endangering the safety of the guard force during transport to and from the Embassy by attempting to substitute company-owned subpar, refurbished vehicles from Iraq rather than purchasing armored escort vehicles as promised to DoS;
- Knowingly using funds to procure cheap counterfeit goods from a company in Lebanon owned by the wife of AGNA’s Logistics Manager; and
- Engaging in practices to maximize profit from the contract with reckless disregard for the safety and security of the guard force, the U.S. Embassy, and its personnel
In his Memorandum Opinion (August 27, 2010), Judge Cacheris noted that “Plaintiff alleges and Defendants offer no facts to dispute that Defendants … began to try to constructively discharge [Mr. Gordon] by ‘making [his] working conditions intolerable.'” Judge Cacheris further noted that “Plaintiff alleges, and Defendants have not offered any evidence refuting the fact, that [Defendant] Medley excluded Plaintiff from management meetings, shunned him, and relegated him to a position of persona non grata in the office” and that “Medley made clear to Plaintiff by his behavior, and to other staff members by his direct boasts, that his priority was to force Gordon to quit.” In denying Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment, Judge Cacheris concluded that “there is a genuine issue of material fact regarding the continued nature and duration of the allegedly illegal acts Plaintiff was requested and required to participate in.” The parties will now proceed into the discovery phase of the litigation.
According to Debra S. Katz, counsel for Mr. Gordon, “this is an important victory for conscientious employees, like Mr. Gordon, who blow the whistle on fraudulent practices by defense contractors and wind up then paying the ultimate price. The court’s decision today makes clear that such employees can bring federal claims under the False Claims Act to obtain redress.”
Debra S. Katz and Lisa Banks, attorneys at Katz, Marshall & Banks, LLP, along with Janet Goldstein and Robert Vogel at Vogel, Slade & Goldstein, LLP, represent James Gordon.
Judge Cacheris’ opinion is available at http://www.kmblegal.com/2010/08/27/court-denies-summary-judgment-in-false-claims-act-whistleblower-retaliation-suit-by-kmb-client-james-gordon-against-afghanistan-defense-contractor-armorgroup/.
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