North Florida Shipyards to Pay $1 Million to Resolve False Claims Allegations

North Florida Shipyards and its president, Matt Self, will pay the United States $1 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by creating a front company, Ind-Mar Services Inc., in order to be awarded Coast Guard contracts that were designated for Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs), the Justice Department announced today.  North Florida Shipyards has facilities in Jacksonville, Florida.

“Those who expect to do business with the government must do so fairly and honestly,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “We will not tolerate contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our veterans and taxpayers.”

To qualify as a SDVOSB on Coast Guard ship repair contracts, a company must be operated and managed by service disabled veterans and must perform at least 51 percent of the labor.  The government alleged that North Florida created Ind-Mar merely as a contracting vehicle and that North Florida performed all the work and received all the profits.  The government further alleged that if the Coast Guard and the Small Business Administration (SBA) had known that Ind-Mar was nothing but a front company, the Coast Guard would not have awarded it contracts to repair five ships.

In December 2013, the SBA suspended North Florida, Matt Self, Ind-Mar and three others from all government contracting.  In April 2014, North Florida and Matt Self entered into an administrative agreement with the SBA in which they admitted to having created and operated Ind-Mar in violation of its Coast Guard contracts and SBA statutes and regulations.

“Special programs to assist service disabled veterans are an important part of the SBA’s business development initiative,” said U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III for the Middle District of Florida.  “False claims such as this undermine the integrity of this vital program and, where found, will be vigorously pursued by our Office.”

“This settlement sends a strong message to those driven by greed to fraudulently obtain access to contracting opportunities set-aside for deserving small businesses owned and operated by service disabled veterans,” said Inspector General Peggy E. Gustafson for the SBA.  “We are committed to helping ensure that only eligible service disabled veteran owned small businesses benefit from that SBA program.”

The settlement resolves allegations originally filed in a lawsuit by Robert Hallstein and Earle Yerger under the qui tam, or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private individuals to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery.  The act also allows the government to intervene and take over the action, as it did in this case.  Hallstein and Yerger will receive $180,000.

The investigation was a coordinated effort by the Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, the Department of Homeland Security’s-Office of Inspector General and the SBA Office of Inspector General.

The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, except to the extent that North Florida and Matt Self have admitted to the conduct in their agreement with the SBA.

The case is captioned United States ex rel. Yerger, et al, v. North Florida Shipyards, et al., Case No. 3:11-cv-464J-32 MCR (M.D. Fla.).

Defense Contractor Agrees to Pay $13.7 Million to Settle Allegations of Overbilling

DRS Technical Services Inc. (DRS) has agreed to pay $13.7 million to settle allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by knowingly overbilling the government for work performed by DRS personnel who lacked the job qualifications required by the contract, the Justice Department announced today.  DRS is located in Herndon, Virginia, and is a subsidiary of DRS Defense Solutions LLC.

DRS designs, integrates, operates and maintains satellite and wireless network solutions and telecommunication services and security systems for government and private sector customers.  DRS C3 & Aviation Company, which is headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland, is an indirect subsidiary of DRS and provides services to government agencies, including aircraft maintenance, logistics and depot support, and engineering support.  Between March 2003 and Dec. 31, 2012, DRS and its predecessors were awarded time and materials contracts for services and supplies to be provided to the Army’s Communication and Electronics Command (CECOM) in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the Coast Guard for aircraft maintenance.

“Contractors that fail to provide qualified labor as promised are not entitled to bill the government as though they had,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “The Department of Justice will pursue contractors that claim taxpayer funds to which they are not entitled.”

The alleged labor mischarging occurred on the Rapid Response or “R2” contract issued by the U.S. Army Communication and Electronics Command (CECOM) located at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.  The U.S. Army used the R2 contract to purchase a variety of goods and services needed to support U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere on a quick turnaround basis.  The settlement also resolves labor mischarging on a similar U.S. Coast Guard contract.

The government contends that from Jan. 1, 2003, to Dec. 31, 2012, DRS billed CECOM for work performed by individuals whose job qualifications did not meet all the qualifications prescribed by the contracts for the labor categories under which their efforts were billed, thereby falsely increasing the amount of money DRS claimed and CECOM paid.  Similarly, from Dec. 19, 2009, to Dec. 18, 2011, the government contends that DRS charged the Coast Guard’s Aviation Logistics Center for work performed by individuals whose job qualifications did not meet the qualifications prescribed by the contract, again, thereby inflating the cost of the services provided.

“Companies that submit false bills to the government must be held accountable,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein for the District of Maryland.

“This settlement is yet another example of the tenacity and hard work of our Army CID agents,” said Director Frank Robey of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit (MPFU).  “It is a testament to MPFU’s continued resolve to hold companies accountable for the work they do for the U.S. government.”

The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, the Civil Division, the Defense Contract Audit Agency, the Army’s Criminal Investigative Command’s MPFU and the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service.