United States Sues Virginia-based Contractor Triple Canopy for False Claims Under Contract for Security in Iraq
Allegedly Billed US for Security Guards Who Did Not Meet Contract Requirements
Contractor Faked Guard Weapon Tests In Iraq, US Says
Department of Justice October 31, 2012
The United States has filed a complaint against a Virginia-based contractor alleging that the company submitted false claims for unqualified security guards under a contract to provide security in Iraq, the Justice Department announced today. The company, Triple Canopy Inc. is headquartered in Reston, Va.
In June 2009, the Joint Contracting Command in Iraq/Afghanistan (JCC-I/A) awarded Triple Canopy a one-year, $10 million contract to perform a variety of security services at Al Asad Airbase – the second largest air base in Iraq. The multi-national JCC-I/A was established by U.S. Central Command in November 2004, to provide contracting support related to the government’s relief and reconstruction efforts in Iraq.
The government’s complaint alleges that Triple Canopy knowingly billed the United States for hundreds of foreign nationals it hired as security guards who could not meet firearms proficiency tests established by the Army and required under the contract. The tests ensure that security guards hired to protect U.S. and allied personnel are capable of firing their AK-47 assault rifles and other weapons safely and accurately. The government also alleges that Triple Canopy’s managers in Iraq falsified test scorecards as a cover up to induce the government to pay for the unqualified guards, and that Triple Canopy continued to bill the government even after high-level officials at the company’s headquarters had been alerted to the misconduct. The complaint further alleges that Triple Canopy used the false qualification records in an attempt to persuade the JCC-I/A to award the company a second year of security work at the Al Asad Airbase.
“For a government contractor to knowingly provide deficient security services, as is alleged in this case, is unthinkable, especially in war time,” said Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. “The department will do everything it can to ensure that contractors comply with critical contract requirements and that contractors who don’t comply aren’t permitted to profit at the expense of our men and women in uniform and the taxpayers at home who support them.”
“We will not tolerate government contractors anywhere in the world who seek to defraud the United States through deliberate or reckless conduct that violates contractual requirements and risks the security of government personnel,” said Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
The government’s claims are based on a whistleblower suit initially filed by a former employee of Triple Canopy in 2011. The suit was filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provision of the False Claims Act, which allows private persons to file suit on behalf of the United States. Under the act, the government has a period of time to investigate the allegations and decide whether to intervene in the action or to decline intervention and allow the whistleblower to go forward alone.
This matter was investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia; the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Justice Department’s Civil Division; and the Army Criminal Investigative Command (CID) and Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) of the Department of Defense.
The claims asserted against Triple Canopy are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability. The government is not aware of any injuries that occurred as a result of the alleged misconduct.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria, and is captioned United States ex rel. Badr v. Triple Canopy, Inc.
The material was chopped from a story I was working on for The Washington Post because of space considerations. Here’s the draft section that was cut:
Roughly a decade ago, two Dyncorp employees reported that some of their fellow employees were involved in the buying and selling of women and young girls in Bosnia. Dyncorp is a U.S. defense and security contractor that held U.S. logistics and security contracts for work in the former Yugoslavia.
Both were fired, retaliation for their whistle-blowing they said.
“The only reason they fired me was because I told on them, and I broke up their little boys’ club,” former Dyncorp employee Ben Johnston said at a congressional hearing in 2002.
A helicopter mechanic working for Dyncorp on an Air Force contract, Johnston had observed Dyncorp employees with young girls believed to have been purchased and employees bragging about buying and selling them in 1999 and 2000.
His allegations were investigated by the Army but after some initial work that did turn up significant evidence of trafficking, including a confession by one employee that women were sold “permanently,” they turned the investigation over to the local police. But the local police erroneously did not believe they could prosecute American contractors, according to a Human Rights Watch report. Nor did the Army investigators interview a Moldovan woman who was purchased, explore allegations that Johnston’s supervisors had raped a woman or that she or other women had been trafficked.
“There is my supervisor, the biggest guy there [in Bosnia] with DynCorp, videotaping having sex with these girls, girls saying no,” Johnston said at the hearing, referring to a video turned over to Army investigators, “but that guy now, to my knowledge, he is in America doing fine. There was no repercussion for raping the girl.”
In addition to the Army’s investigation, a Department of Defense Office of Inspector General assessment found evidence that contractor employees were involved in trafficking, the latter finding that it “continues to be an issue” in Bosnia as late as December 2003. However, no prosecutions for trafficking came as a result.
Johnston reached a settlement for an undisclosed amount with the company hours a British panel ruled against Dyncorp in another similar case and days before his case was to go to trial in Texas in August 2002.
The other company insider was Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraskan deployed by Dyncorp on a State Department contract as part of the U.S. contingent of the International Police Task Force there.
An October 9, 2000, e-mail she wrote, entitled, “Do Not Read This if You Have a Weak Stomach or Guilty Conscience,” was sent to more than 50 U.N. personnel in Bosnia detailing the involvement in trafficking of various aspects of the international force of which she was part. It started a chain reaction that led to her firing the following April, she said.
She won before a British employment tribunal in August 2002 that ordered Dyncorp to pay her nearly $180,000.
But she saw little government action to investigate her specific allegations, said Bolkovac, a former policewoman. In her estimation of what was done: “pretty much zero.”
On the issues she raised in Bosnia, “there’s nobody willing to go the extra mile and do the investigation,” she said.
But other roadblocks also existed. “Get rid of the victim and get ride of the perpetrator and you don’t have a case,” Bolkovac told me, referring to the pattern of sending offenders and victims back to their home countries.
These cases and the media attention they garnered played out around the same time President George W. Bush issued his government-wide “zero tolerance” trafficking policy in 2002 and spoke before the U.N. General Assembly in 2003.
Since Bosnia, DynCorp has continued to win large and important contracts with the U.S. government, including contracts to train police in both Iraq and Afghanistan. But accusations of continued involvement of its employees in prostitution followed it beyond the Balkans – at least according to one former DynCorp subcontractor who testified before the Senate Democratic Policy Committee in 2008.
Dyncorp employees ran a “prostitution ring” that imported prostitutes from Kuwait into Baghdad in armored vehicles and operated out of hotels along the Tigris River, according to Barry Halley, a former Dyncorp subcontractor. The women appeared to be adults from Eastern Europe, he said.
Halley observed this in early 2004 before switching jobs
Associated Press at SF Gate July 26, 2011
A whistleblower lawsuit against the security firm once known as Blackwater is heading to trial in Virginia.
Jury selection starts Tuesday in federal court in Alexandria in a lawsuit brought by former Blackwater employees Brad and Melan Davis.
They accuse the company of cheating the government in bills it submitted for protecting government employees in Iraq and Afghanistan.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III has already dismissed several of the lawsuit’s claims, including an allegation that Blackwater billed the government for prostitutes.
The Davises’ lawsuit is one of several legal skirmishes Blackwater has fought following its contract work. Blackwater now operates under the name Xe Services
A current worker and a former employee of the security contractor previously known as Blackwater have filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the company, the second such suit filed against the firm, according to documents unsealed Thursday.
The lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleges that Blackwater, now known as Xe, overbilled the government for work protecting State Department employees in Iraq and Afghanistan. Part of the alleged fraud included billing for sniper services from individuals who were not properly qualified.
Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that Blackwater billed the State Department for sniper services from one individual who sat behind a desk. In at least one other case, the company allegedly billed for services provided by a marksman who had failed a required drug test.
A spokesman for Moyock, N.C.-based Xe declined comment Thursday, citing the pending legal action. The company has denied similar allegations in the past
At Blog of the Legal Times April 22, 2011
The U.S. Department of Justice announced this afternoon that it has settled a whistleblower lawsuit against two companies under contract with the U.S. Department of State.
DynCorp International LLC and its subcontractor, The Sandi Group (TSG), were sued by two former TSG employees in a qui tam lawsuit under the federal False Claims Act.
In the settlement, DynCorp will pay $7.7 million and TSG will pay $1.01 million, according to the DOJ release. The two former TSG employees will also receive a share up to $481,710.
A copy of the lawsuit filed against the two companies was not immediately available this afternoon, but according to the DOJ release, DynCorp was accused of inflating claims made to the government for construction costs, while TSG was accused of seeking reimbursement for danger pay that it had never actually paid out to U.S. employees working in Iraq.
“The hard work of stabilizing Iraq is challenging enough without contractors and subcontractors inflating the cost of rebuilding by making false claims at taxpayers’ expense,” Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division, said in the DOJ release. “This case demonstrates that the Department of Justice will pursue these cases that undermine the integrity of our public contracting process.”
Stuart Bowen Jr., the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction said in a statement that “false claims filed by contractors have been a problem in Iraq.”
G4S company and guards on flight carrying Jimmy Mubenga could be charged with manslaughter
Paul Lewis and Mathew Taylor The Guardian UK March 16, 2011
Scotland Yard is considering bringing a corporate manslaughter charge against the world’s largest private security firm over the death of an Angolan deportee.
Detectives investigating the death of Jimmy Mubenga, who collapsed while being deported on a commercial flight from Heathrow, have interviewed whistleblowers from G4S, the company hired by the government to deport foreign nationals.
They are considering whether the company could be held responsible for his death under rarely used legislation that came into force three years ago.
Passengers on British Airways flight 77 told police they saw three G4S guards heavily restraining Mubenga, who they said had been complaining of breathing difficulties before he collapsed. The guards were later arrested in connection with the death and, following interviews this week, were bailed until 4 May. They could face manslaughter charges.
However, sources with knowledge of the case have said police are also considering passing a file to the Crown Prosecution Service recommending a corporate manslaughter charge against G4S.
The Justice Department has intervened in a false claims lawsuit against KBR Inc., one of the Defense Department’s largest contractors, claiming the goliath logistics firm made illegal payments to a Turkish subcontractor.
On Friday, the government joined a lawsuit first filed in February 2007 by a KBR whistleblower who claimed the former Halliburton subsidiary violated the False Claims Act in connection with the Army’s third-generation Logistics Civil Augmentation Program contract.
“Contractors hired to provide support to our men and women in uniform must play by the rules,” said Tony West, assistant attorney general for the civil division of the Justice Department. “As we’ve done today, the Justice Department will take action against those whom we believe charge the taxpayers for goods and services that were not provided to American troops.”
Under the mammoth LOGCAP III contract, KBR provides a host of logistics and support services to troops in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, including meals, water, mail, sanitation, fuel and showers. KBR performs the LOGCAP III contract largely through subcontractors. Please read the entire article here
MANHATTAN (CN) – After a federal jury convicted an Army captain of corruption with military contractors in Iraq, an attorney who has spent years on such cases said that such prosecutions are rare – and much needed. “For several years, we were very worried because we just saw a complete lack of any sort of fraud prosecution against defense contractors,” Susan Burke said.
“Given the dollars being spent on both these wars, it’s imperative for the United States to continue to root out fraud,” Burke added.
Burke, who has specialized in cases involving misconduct by contractors and military personnel, has represented victims of torture, abuse and murder at Abu Ghraib prison and Nisour Square in Iraq.
Last year, her Iraqi clients settled seven civil lawsuits alleging “senseless slaughter” by guards of the company formerly known as Blackwater, now operating under the name Xe.
Burke says she still has three active lawsuits against defense contractors CACI and L-3, on behalf of Iraqis who say they were tortured at detention centers in Iraq.
She also has an active suit against Blackwater founder Erik Prince and his entities, on behalf of a married couple who used to work for him. The husband and wife Burke represents sued under the False Claims Act, which allows whistleblowers to sue contractors on behalf of the federal government for fraud.
Burke spoke to Courthouse News after Army Capt. Bryant Williams was convicted of corruption in December. Williams was on active duty at the time.
Burke said she has been trying for years to get the federal government to pursue cases against defense corruption cases more aggressively – to little avail.
“We’ve been following, essentially, the lack of actions by the Department of Justice with regard to the torture issues,” Burke said, “and we keep an eye on the federal prosecutions against defense contractors on the fraud issue.”
The Uniform Code of Military Justice prevents the military from prosecuting corporate employees, leaving the Department of Justice the exclusive authority to prosecute crimes by military contractors, Burke said.
Prosecutors allege that Samir Mahmoud Itani and his company American Grocers Ltd. changed the labels on food with a short shelf life and sold it to the U.S. military from 2003 to 2006 duringthe Iraq War.
A Texas businessman has agreed to pay $15 million to settle federal allegations of defrauding the government by selling old and potentially dangerous food to the U.S. military to supply combat soldiers serving in Iraq, according to a new federal complaint.
Prosecutors had alleged that Samir Mahmoud Itani and his company American Grocers Ltd. profiteered off the war in Iraq by buying food products with a short shelf life, paying a deep discount for them – and changing the labels to make them seem fresher than they really were.
Itani’s privately held American Grocers purchased core staples from some of the country’s leading food manufacturers, including Kraft Foods International Inc., the Hershey Co., Frito-Lay North America, Sara Lee Corp. and ConAgra Foodservice, according to the civil complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Houston and interviews with the whistleblower in the case
Itani allegedly ordered employees to alter the packaging of a long shopping list — which included boxes of potato flakes, salad dressings, containers of lobster and ground hamburger patties among other things — in order to meet military procurement contractor requirements for freshness. And as the country’s military presence grew in the Middle East, Itani’s business boomed.
Prosecutors said that Itani, 51, two family members and a tight-knit group of business acquaintances used this scheme to sell at least $36 million worth of adulterated food products to the government from about 2003 to 2006 during the Iraq War, also known as Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“All it took,” according to the complaint, “was false promises, a warehouse and a few hundred buckets of nail polish remover.”
After semi-trucks loaded with pallets of raw Jennie-O turkeys, blocks of Kraft cheese and vats of J.M. Smucker’s peanut butter arrived at the warehouse and unloaded the goods, employees used acetone, spray paint or a small drill to erase the expiration dates on the product labels, according to court filings unsealed this week.
New dates were then printed out or stamped onto new stickers, according to the filings. The new labels falsely showed that the food would remain fresh for another nine to 18 months, depending on the product and how much shelf life it had left, according to federal court records.
“Companies that provide supplies to our men and women in uniform must be held to a high standard,” said Tony West, assistant attorney general for the civil division of the Department of Justice said in a statement. “We will be vigilant in protecting taxpayer funds from fraud, especially where the fraud relates to contracts meant to support our troops.”
Suzanne Itani, chief executive of American Grocers and Samir’s wife, said in a statement that the company still disputes the allegations asserted against it.
However, Itani said, the company is “proud of the service and products it delivers to its customers” and they “look forward to returning our full attention to serving our many loyal customers throughout the world.”
Daniel Ellsberg, the former military intelligence contractor who 40 years ago leaked the Pentagon Papers, made a surprise appearance Saturday at the WikiLeaks news conference in London to heartily endorse the group’s publication of almost 400,000 Iraq war logs and warn of a U.S. government trying to close the shutters on military decision making and warfare.
Ellsberg congratulated WikiLeaks and its partners for disseminating the grim details about the war, which highlight under-reported Iraqi deaths and myriad alleged human rights abuses.
Ellsberg said revelations made months ago by WikiLeaks relating to the ongoing war in Afghanistan didn’t go far enough, and he urged journalist and author Bob Woodward to release the top secret documents and records he gained access to in researching his latest book, “Obama’s Wars,” to shed further light on the subject.
“WikiLeaks offers itself as the best vehicle for doing that,” said Ellsberg, even suggesting that researchers working for Woodward could provide the top secret materials to Assange’s organization.
Ellsberg said if the documents Woodward had access to were to be made public, it could “come close” to being a Pentagon Papers on the Afghan war.
“Secrecy is essential to empire,” said Ellsberg, after accusing President Obama of continuing a trend set by his predecessor, George W. Bush, of trying to greatly stem the flow of U.S. war planning and fighting information to the public through the reinterpretation of laws already in existence.
He even speculated that, if the Republican party retakes control of the U.S. Congress in an election set to take place in just more than a week, new laws would soon be drafted to keep secrets more securely behind closed doors.
He said the GOP was “almost certain to pass” a law mirroring the Official Secrets Act in the United Kingdom.
Ellsberg accused President Obama of playing a legal “experiment” with the arrest of army whistleblower Spc. Bradley Manning, who is suspected of leaking thousands of Iraq war documents to WikiLeaks. Manning is now in custody.
Ellsberg said Manning was a “hero” in his opinion.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Sixteen private guards have been removed from the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan in a scandal over sexual hazing and lewd behavior, the State Department said on Thursday as the security contractor faced new allegations of misconduct.
A federal whistle-blower lawsuit filed on Thursday against ArmorGroup North America charged that the firm contracted to protect the embassy had ignored brothel visits by guardsmen, sexual hazing and other misconduct because of what a lawyer said was a “myopic preoccupation with profit.”
The lawsuit by ArmorGroup North America’s former director of operations, James Gordon, was the second time in as many weeks the Virginia-based firm has come under fire for its performance in a five-year, $187 million contract with the State Department.
A watchdog report on September 1 charged that ArmorGroup jeopardized security at the embassy by chronically understaffing the facility and ignoring lewd, drunken conduct and sexual hazing by some guards.
The report by the Project on Government Oversight included photos of nearly naked men dancing near a bonfire at their camp and urinating on each other while colleagues snapped photos. A video showed men pouring alcohol down the bare backside of a new recruit and drinking it as it spilled from his buttocks.
Spokesman P.J. Crowley said investigators had interviewed more than 150 people over the past week in connection with the watchdog’s allegations. Eight guards were removed, four resigned of their own accord, two managers were dismissed and two others left voluntarily, he said.
“The State Department continues to fully investigate allegations regarding ArmorGroup,” Crowley said. “We have aggressively overseen this contract since it was awarded in March of 2007 and went into force in July of 2007.”
CITED NINE TIMES
As evidence of aggressive oversight, he said the firm had been cited nine times for performance deficiencies and each time the State Department and ArmorGroup had agreed on measures to remedy the problem.
The State Department extended ArmorGroup’s contract for another year in June despite citing the firm three months earlier for letting 18 guardposts go unstaffed for 30 hours and other shortcomings.
Crowley declined to comment on the specific charges in the Gordon lawsuit, but repeated the U.S. view that “at no time … was the security of the embassy ever threatened or compromised.”
Gordon, noting that many of the security guards do not speak English, told reporters in a telephone briefing from Afghanistan it was “ludicrous for anyone to think that is a safe environment and that is an effective security force.”
“I don’t see how anybody could say, firstly, that the government is getting what they are paying for, and secondly, that that does not compromise the security of the embassy itself,” he said.
The lawsuit filed by Gordon charged that three senior guards — the person in charge of weapons, the top guard manager and a medic — frequented a Kabul brothel in violation of the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
Gordon, a former New Zealand army captain, said when he tried to investigate the matter, it was handed over to the company’s London-based parent firm, which produced a “whitewashed” three-page report that resulted in a warning letter being placed in the project manager’s employee file.
Gordon’s suit makes a number of other allegations against ArmorGroup, now owned by Florida-based Wackenhut Services. It charges Gordon was effectively forced to leave his job when he warned the company and the State Department about failures to fully implement the contract.