Justice Department sues Reston contractor, alleges it provided unqualified guards in Iraq

October 31, 2012

The Justice Department sued a Virginia-based contractor Wednesday, accusing the company of submitting false claims for unqualified guards under a $10 million contract to provide security in Iraq.

Triple Canopy, a private security company based in Reston, billed the United States for hundreds of Iraqi foreign nationals hired as security guards although they did not meet firearms proficiency tests established by the Army and required under the contract, according to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The lawsuit says that Triple Canopy’s managers in Iraq falsified the test results to get paid for the unqualified guards and that the company continued to bill the government even after high-level executives had been alerted about the misconduct.

The tests are administered to 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, Justice Department officials said.

“For a government contractor to knowingly provide deficient security services, as is alleged in this case, is unthinkable, especially in wartime,” said Stuart F. Delery, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

Neil H. MacBride, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District, said, “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.”

A company spokesman said that “on advice of counsel, Triple Canopy is unable to comment due to pending litigation surrounding this matter.” Triple Canopy was recently selected as a finalist for the Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards, which are presented by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and two other local organizations.

In 2009, Triple Canopy was awarded a one-year, $10 million contract by the Joint Contracting Command in Iraq/Afghanistan to perform a variety of security services at al-Asad Air Base, the second-largest air base in Iraq. The government’s allegations are based on a whistleblower suit that was filed last year by a former employee of Triple Canopy.

The qualifications of local security guards hired by the U.S. government to protect American personnel abroad have recently come under scrutiny after the September attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Triple Canopy, which won a $159 million Pentagon contract this year to provide security in Afghanistan, was among several private security firms accused by the Afghan government last year of committing unspecified “major offenses.”

Sari Horwitz covers the Justice Department, after 30 years at the paper where she has been an investigative reporter and covered federal law enforcement, crime, education and social services.
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