Last week, the Department of Justice announced it had joined a whistleblower lawsuit accusing Kellogg, Brown & Root Services Inc. (KBR) and two of its Kuwaiti subcontractors of corruption on an Iraq logistics services contract. The lawsuit alleges KBR and Kuwaiti firms La Nouvelle General Trading & Contracting Company and First Kuwaiti Trading Company engaged in a kickback scheme and overbilled the U.S. Army on the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) III contract.
According to the government’s complaint, KBR “acted, at a minimum, with reckless disregard or deliberate ignorance” of the truthfulness of its LOGCAP billing claims submitted during the early years of the Iraq War. The government alleges that, from 2002 through 2004, KBR employees Stephen Lowell Seamans, Jeff Alex Mazon, and Anthony J. Martin took kickbacks from La Nouvelle and First Kuwaiti in exchange for awarding them subcontracts. During that time, according to the lawsuit, KBR submitted wildly inflated claims for payment under those subcontracts and sought reimbursement for goods and services that were grossly deficient or not provided at all.
For example, KBR is alleged to have awarded La Nouvelle a subcontract to supply fuel tankers at more than three times their actual cost, while La Nouvelle allegedly rewarded Mazon, who awarded the subcontract, with a $1 million kickback. KBR is also alleged to have billed the government for vehicles that either were never delivered or had been returned to the subcontractors for being unfit to perform the required tasks.
But the lawsuit isn’t just about dollars and cents. One of the most disturbing allegations is that KBR used refrigerated trucks to transport ice and food without properly sanitizing them after they were used to store corpses.
All three KBR employees eventually admitted taking kickbacks or making false statements and were punished. Seamans pleaded guilty in 2006 and was sentenced to one year in prison. Mazon, after two trials ended with deadlocked juries, pleaded guilty in 2009 and was sentenced to one year of supervised release. Martin pleaded guilty in 2007 and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison. Seamans and Martin were also ordered to pay $380,000 and $200,000 in restitution, respectively.
The government is suing KBR, La Nouvelle, and First Kuwaiti under the False Claims Act and the Anti-Kickback Act. The lawsuit was originally filed by Bud Conyers, who worked as a truck driver for KBR in Iraq. His ghastly claim about U.S. troops’ food being transported in contaminated mortuary trucks made national news several years ago.
First Kuwaiti—which gained notoriety for its questionable labor practices and shoddy construction work on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad—and KBR are currently fighting another LOGCAP III False Claims Act lawsuit. That lawsuit, filed by the government in 2012, concerns an alleged overbilling of $48 million for troop housing units. The most damning claim in the 2012 lawsuit is that KBR long knew that First Kuwaiti’s billing practices were, in the words of internal KBR emails, “absolute highway robbery.”
Neil GORDON, January 28, 2014
Source : POGO BLOG