Three prime examples of military contractor fraud deserve attention today. Two put service members at serious risk of bodily harm or death, and all of them bilked tax payers.
In the first case, a subcontractor of Sikorsky agreed to pay $1.2 million to settle a FCA claim. Ceradyne, Inc., of Costa Mesa, CA, allegedly failed to ballistically test armor plating it installed near the pilot and copilot in Black Hawk helicopters. The Black Hawk is used by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. Ceradyne allegedly failed to conduct the tests between 1992 and 2006, so there is potentially a whole generation of Black Hawks out there that is not providing adequate protection for its crew members.
The second case also involves helicopters. This time, Bell Helicopter Textron realized that it (oops) overcharged the government for helicopters and services. Bell already paid more than $12.8 million in 2006 to settle its billing mistakes. Now, Bell must pay an additional $3.7 million to settle any claims the U.S. may have against the subsidiary Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Limited as a result of intra-company charges that led to more overbilling. This case comes under the umbrella of the National Procurement Fraud initiative, which is designed to identify this type of fraud early on. Unfortunately, military contractors are good at staying one step ahead of the government.
In the third leg of the military contractor fraud triumvirate is a case involving M24o and M249 machine guns. A former employee of defense contractor Northside Machine Company accused his employer of ordering him to approve gun parts that didn’t meet quality standards for troops and then (surprise!) firing him for blowing the whistle. Northside provides trigger assemblies and other parts for M240s and M249s, which are widely used by the military. A federally funded research group found that 30% of troops surveyed reported that the M249 had simply stopped firing during combat, which is probably not the best thing when some insurgent is trying to take you out!
UPDATE: Maybe this should actually be called a quadumvirate! The Army has announced that it is recalling 44,000 advanced combat helmets manufactured by Hebron, OH-based ArmorSource LLC. Apparently the helmets (already issued to soldiers worldwide) do not meet military specs. So now, it looks like tax dollars are being spent to send soldiers out in helicopters with inadequate armor to fight with guns that don’t shoot while wearing helmets that may not offer enough protection!
This article is brought to you by The Qui Tam Team, the epicenter for whistleblowers and people interested in the False Claims Act, Qui Tam Provisions, and Medicare and Medicaid fraud. To discuss a potential case, please call Eric Young at 1 (800) 590-4116.