Army Soldier Sentenced for Facilitating Thefts of Fuel in Afghanistan

United States Army soldier Albert Kelly III of Fort Knox, Kentucky, was sentenced to serve 18 months in prison for his role in stealing fuel at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Salerno in Afghanistan.    In addition to his prison term, Kelly was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution.
Acting Assistant Attorney General David O’Neil of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney David J. Hale of the Western District of Kentucky made the announcement after the sentence was imposed by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Simpson III in the Western District of Kentucky.
According to court documents, from January 2011 to January 2012, Kelly was assigned to FOB Salerno, and for most of that time he served as a specialist.    Kelly’s duties included overseeing the delivery of fuel into FOB Salerno.  Typically, the fuel was brought into the base by Afghan trucking companies driven by Afghan nationals.    Kelly’s duties included verifying the amounts of the fuel that were delivered at FOB Salerno and preparing and certifying documents that accounted for the fuel that was delivered.
From in or about November 2011 through January 2012, Kelly diverted and permitted the diversion of fuel delivery trucks from FOB Salerno to other locations, where the diverted fuel would then be removed from the trucks and stolen.    To conceal this diversion, he falsely certified that the diverted fuel was in fact delivered at FOB Salerno.
Also according to court documents, in exchange for assisting in the theft of fuel as described, Kelly received approximately $57,000 from the Afghan trucking company.    He admitted the amount of fuel he permitted to be diverted amounted to approximately 25,000 gallons.    The United States Army paid approximately $4.00 per gallon for that fuel, and the loss to the government was approximately $100,000.
The case was investigated by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.    This case was handled by Special Trial Attorney Mark H. Dubester, on detail from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bennett of the Western District of Kentucky.

Army Soldier Sentenced for Facilitating Thefts of Fuel in Afghanistan

A U.S. Army soldier was sentenced to serve 12 months and one day in prison for his role in stealing fuel at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Fenty near Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney David J. Hale of the Western District of Kentucky made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas B. Russell in the Western District of Kentucky.
According to court documents, in May and June 2010, U.S. Army Sergeant Kevin Bilal Abdullah, 40, of Clarksville, Tenn., was involved in overseeing the delivery of fuel from FOB Fenty to other military bases.    Abdullah created fraudulent documents called Transportation Movement Requests purporting to authorize the transport of fuel from FOB Fenty to other military bases, even though no legitimate fuel transportation was required.    After the trucks were filled with fuel, these fraudulent documents were used by the drivers of the fuel trucks at FOB Fenty’s departure checkpoint to justify the trucks’ departures.    In truth, the fuel was simply stolen, and  Abdullah and his co-conspirators received payment in cash from a representative of the Afghan trucking company that allegedly stole the fuel.
Abdullah pleaded guilty on Aug. 29, 2013, to receiving payments from a representative of the trucking company in exchange for facilitating the theft of fuel in approximately 25 fuel trucks.    He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and to the substantive count of bribery.   At sentencing, he was ordered to pay $466,250 in restitution.
Abdullah’s sentencing was the fourth conviction arising from this investigation of fuel thefts at FOB Fenty.    On Aug. 3, 2012, Jonathan Hightower, a civilian employee of a military contractor who had conspired with Abdullah and others, pleaded guilty to similar charges.    After cooperating with the government, he was sentenced on Oct. 28, 2013, to serve 27 months in prison.    On Oct.10, 2012, Christopher Weaver, another conspirator, pleaded guilty to fuel theft charges and, after cooperating with the government, was sentenced on Oct. 28, 2013, to serve 37 months in prison.    On Sept. 5, 2013, former Specialist Stephanie Charboneau pleaded guilty, and on Feb. 4, 2014, she was sentenced to serve 87 months in prison.    Weaver, Hightower and Charboneau were prosecuted in the District of Colorado.
These cases were investigated by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the Department of the Army – Criminal Investigation Division, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the FBI.
The Abdullah case was handled by Special Trial Attorney Mark H. Dubester of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, on detail from SIGAR, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bennett.

Army Soldier Pleads Guilty for Role in Stealing Fuel in Afghanistan

U.S. Army Sergeant Albert Kelly III, 28, of Fort Knox, Ky., pleaded guilty today to theft charges for his role in the theft of fuel at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Salerno in Afghanistan.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney David J. Hale of the Western District of Kentucky made the announcement.
The plea was entered in federal court in Louisville, Ky., before Magistrate Judge James D. Moyer of the Western District of Kentucky.   Kelly faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison when he is sentenced on May 22, 2014, by U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II.
According to court records, Kelly was a soldier in the United States Army and was assigned to FOB Salerno from January 2011 to January 2012.   For most of that time, Kelly served as a specialist, and his duties included overseeing the delivery of fuel into FOB Salerno.   Typically, the fuel was brought into the base by Afghan trucking companies driven by Afghan nationals.   Kelly’s duties included verifying the amounts of the fuel that were downloaded at FOB Salerno and preparing and certifying documents that accounted for the fuel that was downloaded.
From in or about November 2011 through January 2012, Kelly diverted and permitted the diversion of fuel delivery trucks from FOB Salerno to other locations, where the trucks would then be downloaded and the fuel stolen.   To conceal this diversion, he falsely certified that the diverted fuel was in fact delivered and downloaded at FOB Salerno.
In exchange for assisting the fuel theft, Kelly received approximately $57,000 from the Afghan trucking company for diverting approximately 25,000 gallons of fuel.   The loss to the government was approximately $100,000.
This case was investigated by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).   The prosecution is being handled by Special Trial Attorney Mark H. Dubester, on detail to the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section from SIGAR, and Assistant United States Attorney Michael A. Bennett of the Western District of Kentucky.

Former HealthEssentials Solutions Inc. Executives to Pay More Than $1 Million to Resolve Allegations of Submitting False Claims to Federal Health Care Program

Michael R. Barr, former chief executive officer of Louisville, Kentucky-based HealthEssentials Solutions Inc., has agreed to pay $1 million to resolve allegations that he knowingly caused HealthEssentials to submit false claims to Medicare between 1999 and 2004, the Justice Department announced today.  Norman J. Pfaadt, HealthEssentials’ former chief financial officer, also agreed to pay $20,000 to resolve similar allegations.   H ea lt h E s s e nt i a ls  p r o vi d ed  p r i m a ry  m e di c al  c a re  to  p a ti e nts  in nursing fa  cilit  ies, assisted living  facilities and other settings from 1998 until it filed for bankruptcy and ceased operations in 2005.  Barr founded HealthEssentials and served as its president, chief executive and board chairman.  Pfaadt served as HealthEssentials’ senior vice president and chief financial officer.

  “Healthcare executives should lead by example and create cultures of compliance within their companies, not pressure their employees to cheat the taxpayers,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division Stuart F. Delery.  “We will continue to hold health care executives personally accountable for their dealings with Medicare.”

“Pursuing health care fraud is a priority of this office and the Department of Justice,” said U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky David J. Hale.  “We will continue to work with the Department of Health and Human Services and the public to ensure that fraudulent claims are investigated and those responsible are required to pay.”

In March 2008, HealthEssentials pleaded guilty to submitting false statements to Medicare relating to services it provided to patients in assisted living facilities and entered into a civil settlement with the government.  In May 2011, HealthEssentials’ former director of billing, Karen Stone, pleaded guilty for her role in the company’s billing scheme.

The settlement announced today resolves Barr’s and Pfaadt’s alleged liability under the False Claims Act for their roles in HealthEssentials’ false billings.  The government alleged that, between 1999 and 2004, HealthEssentials billed for services that were inflated or not medically necessary and that Barr and Pfaadt pressured HealthEssentials employees to inflate the company’s billings, despite having been advised by attorneys and others that doing so would be improper.  The government further alleged that Barr pressured HealthEssentials employees to conduct special medical assessments on patients, without regard to whether the patients required the assessments, solely to increase the amount that HealthEssentials could bill for the visits.  As part of the settlement, Barr has agreed to a three-year period of exclusion from participating in federally funded health care programs.

“Executives cheating taxpayers and patients – as alleged in this case – should beware of exclusion from Medicare, Medicaid and all other federal health programs, as well as criminal and civil liability,” said Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Daniel R. Levinson.  “Vulnerable beneficiaries deserve protection from potentially harmful, medically unnecessary services.”

The allegations that were resolved by the settlement arose in part from a lawsuit filed by former HealthEssentials employees Michael and Leigh RoBards under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which allow private citizens to bring suit on behalf of the government and to share in any recovery.  Mr. and Mrs. RoBards will receive a total of $153,000.

This settlement illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $17 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $12.2 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

The case was handled by the Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky, with assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.  The case is captioned United States ex rel. Stydinger, et al. v. Michael R. Barr and Norman J. Pfaadt, Civil No. 3:03-cv-00380-TBR (W.D. Ky.).

Army Soldier Pleads Guilty in Kentucky to Bribery Charges for Facilitating Thefts of Fuel in Afghanistan

U.S. Army Sergeant Kevin Bilal Abdullah pleaded guilty today to bribery charges for his role in the theft of fuel at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Fenty, near Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

The guilty plea was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky David J. Hale.

Abdullah, 30, of Fort Campbell, Ky., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell in the Western District of Kentucky to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and one substantive count of bribery.

According to court documents, in approximately May and June 2010, Abdullah was involved in overseeing the delivery of fuel from FOB Fenty to other military bases.  As part of this process, documents generally described as “transportation movement requests” (TMRs or mission sheets) were created to authorize the movement of fuel.

According to court documents, Abdullah created fraudulent TMRs that purported to authorize the transport of fuel from FOB Fenty to other military bases, even though no legitimate fuel transportation was required.  After the trucks were filled with fuel, the fraudulent TMRs were used by the drivers of the fuel trucks at FOB Fenty’s departure checkpoint in order to justify the trucks’ departures from FOB Fenty.  In truth, the fuel was simply stolen.

Abdullah pleaded guilty to receiving payments from a representative of the trucking company in exchange for facilitating the theft of approximately 25 truckloads of fuel.  According to court documents, the loss to the United States as a result of the theft was in excess of $400,000.

Abdullah’s plea is the third guilty plea arising from this investigation of fuel thefts at FOB Fenty.  On Aug. 3, 2012, Jonathan Hightower, a civilian employee of a military contractor who had conspired with Abdullah, pleaded guilty to similar charges.  On Oct. 10, 2012, Christopher Weaver also pleaded guilty to fuel theft charges.  A fourth individual, Stephanie Charboneau, was indicted April 9, 2013, and is pending trial on fuel theft-related charges.

This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Mark H. Dubester of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael A. Bennett of the Western District of Kentucky.  This case was investigated by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction; Department of the Army, Criminal Investigations Division; Defense Criminal Investigative Service; and FBI.

Kentucky-Based Defense Contractors, Owners Agree to Pay $6.25 Million to Resolve Allegations That They Submitted False Statements and Claims to Obtain Army Contracts Intended for Small Businesses

Kentucky-Based Defense Contractors, Owners Agree to Pay $6.25 Million to Resolve Allegations That They Submitted False Statements and Claims to Obtain Army Contracts Intended for Small Businesses

Kentucky-based Lusk Mechanical Contractors and Commonwealth Technologies, and their owners, Harry Lusk and Wendell Goodman, have agreed to pay $6.25 million to resolve allegations that they submitted false statements to the Small Business Administration and false claims to the Army, the Justice Department announced today.

 

Congress established the Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) program in 1997 to help inner cities and rural counties that have low household income and high unemployment, and whose communities have suffered from a lack of investment.   Under the HUBZone program, small businesses that maintain their principal office in a designated HUBZone, and meet certain other requirements, can apply to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for certification as a HUBZone company.  HUBZone companies can then use this certification to their advantage when bidding on government contracts.

 

Today’s settlement resolves allegations that Lusk Mechanical, Commonwealth Technology and their owners made, or caused to be made, false statements to the SBA to obtain certification as a HUBZone company, and then used this certification to wrongfully obtain Army contracts to build a courthouse in Fort Knox, Ky., and to complete maintenance and other repairs to Army facilities in Fort Knox.   Specifically, the United States alleged that in February 2005, Commonwealth submitted an application to the SBA representing that it was a small business with its principal place of business in a designated HUBZone.   In fact, Commonwealth allegedly operated out of Lusk Mechanical’s headquarters, which was not located in a HUBZone area.  Commonwealth’s business office was identified on the application as 212 East Caroline Street, Irvington, Ky.   The United States alleged that this location was nothing more than a vacant office space with no employees, and that Commonwealth’s application did not disclose that Wendell Goodman and Harry Lusk were, in fact, affiliated with Lusk Mechanical.   At the time, Harry Lusk and his wife were the sole owners of Lusk Mechanical and Wendell Goodman was the chief executive officer of Lusk Mechanical.   According to the United States’ allegations, neither Lusk nor Goodman disclosed in the application to the SBA that Commonwealth did not operate as an independent company, but instead shared facilities, equipment, personnel, insurance and bonding with Lusk Mechanical, nor did they inform the SBA about the financial relationship between Commonwealth and Lusk Mechanical.  The United States alleged that, using the falsely obtained HUBZone certification, the companies obtained contracts from the Army that had been restricted to qualified HUBZone companies, in violation of the False Claims Act and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA).

 

Under the terms of the settlement, Commonwealth, Lusk Mechanical, Goodman, and Lusk have agreed to pay $3,741,739.96, and to forfeit $2,506,260.24 seized by federal agents from their bank accounts under a civil forfeiture action.

 

“As our economy continues to improve, the HUBZone program provides a critical lifeline to small businesses that voluntarily choose to locate in areas that often have difficulty attracting business,” said Stuart F. Delery, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.   “Companies that set up sham offices not only break the law, but deprive the HUBZone communities and legitimate HUBZone businesses of the benefits of the HUBZone program.”

 

“They abused a program meant to assist small businesses located in financially disadvantaged communities,” stated David J. Hale, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky. “Today’s multimillion dollar settlement is the result of a successfully coordinated effort among law enforcement agencies and the Department of Justice, working together to hold these business owners accountable.”

 

“The HUBZone Program offers significant benefits to eligible small businesses and is an important tool for unlocking the potential of historically underutilized business zones,” said Inspector General Peggy E. Gustafson of the Small Business Administration. “Preferences for federal contract awards must not be given to persons who lie in order to claim eligibility.   I applaud the dedication and perseverance of our law enforcement partners as justice is served here today on behalf of the American taxpayer”

 

“SBA’s contracting programs, including the HUBZone program, provide small businesses with the opportunity to grow and create jobs,” stated SBA’s General Counsel Sara Lipscomb.  “But, SBA has no tolerance for waste, fraud or abuse in any government contracting program and is committed to ensuring the benefits of these programs flow to the intended recipients.  SBA works closely with our federal partners to prevent bad actors from participating in contracting programs and taking action and holding those accountable when they lie to or mislead the government.”

“This investigation is the result of a highly successful joint effort by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) and one of our key law enforcement partners — the SBA’s Office of Inspector General, in collaboration with the Department of Justice.   Fraud in military contracting undermines the confidence of the American public who demand a military procurement system that spends their tax dollars wisely and responsibly.   This investigation should serve as a warning for those who submit false claims for U.S. military and public funds that DCIS will aggressively investigate these matters,” said Bret Flinn, Resident Agent in Charge of the DCIS Dayton Resident Agency.

 

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Delery thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky, the Office of General Counsel and the Office of the Inspector General for the Small Business Administration, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and the Justice Department’s Commercial Litigation Branch for the collaboration that resulted in today’s settlement.   The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.