Virginia Tactical Gear & Equipment company agrees to pay more than $2 million to settle allegations related to Buy American Act
COLUMBUS, Ohio – U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Parker today announced that a Virginia-based tactical gear and equipment company has agreed to pay nearly $2.1 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations that it failed to comply with the requirements of the Buy American Act (“BAA”), Trade Agreements Act (“TAA”) and Berry Amendment when selling textile-based products to the Department of Defense.
London Bridge Trading Company, Ltd. (“LBT”) entered the settlement with the United States and qui tam relator Ann Keating.
The BAA was enacted in 1933 to protect U.S. manufacturing by creating a preference for domestic products when the federal government purchases supplies. The Berry Amendment requires certain items purchased by the Department of Defense to be 100% domestic in origin and mandates a higher level of domestic content than the Buy American Act. The TAA governs trade agreements between the United States and foreign countries and limits certain U.S. Government procurement to US-made products or products made in designated countries.
Court documents allege that since at least 2008, LBT submitted false claims in connection with the sale of “American-made” products that were actually manufactured in foreign countries, including Peru, Mexico and China. The company marketed its goods as “100% made in America” and replaced the original foreign manufacturers’ tags with tags that read “Made in USA.”
LBT also offered its products for sale to all federal agencies on the government-owned website “GSA Advantage!” that permits government agencies throughout the United States to purchase products from contracted vendors.
The United States, including through the Defense Logistics Agency’s supply center located in Columbus, purchased a variety of textile-based products from LBT, including clothing, armor, boots, belts, bags, rope, slings, backpacks and medical pouches. This settlement specifically addressed load-out bags purchased from LBT that violated the TAA and Berry Amendment.
The civil settlement includes the resolution of claims brought by an employee of LBT under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. These provisions allow a private party, known as a relator, to file an action on behalf of the United States and receive a portion of any recovery. Under the terms of the settlement agreement the relator will receive a share of the proceeds.
The lawsuit is titled U.S. ex rel. Keating v. London Bridge Trading, et al. The relator in this case had a personal interest in the safety and security of the United States military; in 2004, the relator’s son was killed while serving in Iraq. The relator believes the scheme as alleged was a threat to the safety and integrity of U.S. military operations.
This matter was investigated by agents from the Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service’s Mid-Atlantic Field Office; Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division, Major Procurement Fraud Field Office; General Services Administration, Office of Inspector General, Mid-Atlantic Division; Homeland Security Investigations; and Defense Logistics Agency working with the U.S. Attorneys’ offices in the Southern District of Ohio and Eastern District of Virginia.
“We greatly appreciate the steadfast, thorough, and collaborative work on this case by each of the federal agencies involved,” said U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Parker. “This office takes very seriously the duty of government contractors to meet all of their obligations under government contracts and we will pursue anyone falsely certifying compliance with the Buy American Act.”
“GSA OIG will continue to work with its investigative partners and the Department of Justice to protect the integrity of GSA's Multiple Award Schedule program and hold accountable those who attempt to defraud the government," said Special Agent in Charge Elisa Pellegrini with the General Services Administration’s Office of Inspector General.
“We are very pleased with this resolution. This is a testament to the aggressive investigation we conducted, and now the public can see this.” said Andrew Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division, Major Procurement Fraud Field Office. “Companies that do business with the government must comply with all of their obligations, and if they seek to circumvent the rules and regulations of what and how they supply our women and men in uniform, they must be held accountable for their actions.”
Civil Chief Andrew M. Malek is representing the United States in this matter.
The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.