brings fraud charges against firm that vetted Snowden
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[January 23, 2014]
By Sakthi Prasad
(Reuters) — The Justice Department has
accused United States Investigations Services (USIS), the private firm
that also vetted Edward Snowden before he leaked documents about U.S.
spying efforts, of bilking millions of dollars through improper
background checks, a court filing showed.
USIS has a contract with the U.S. government since 1996 to vet
individuals seeking employment with federal agencies. Such
background checks include investigative fieldwork on each
The whistleblower lawsuit, filed in July 2011 by a former employee
of USIS, is not about the firm's review of Snowden. The lawsuit
alleges that USIS failed to perform quality control reviews in
connection with its background investigations.
Blake Percival filed the lawsuit under the False Claims Act, which
lets people collect rewards for blowing the whistle on fraud against
In a filing made late on Wednesday, the Justice Department (DOJ)
said USIS submitted background investigations that were not reviewed
as per agreed standards.
DOJ said that due to its fraudulent conduct, USIS received millions
of dollars that it otherwise would not have received had the
government been aware that the background investigations had not
gone through the quality review process required by the contract.
The DOJ said that between March 2008 and September 2012, USIS filed
at least 665,000 flawed background checks, which was about 40
percent of the total submissions.
"USIS management devised and executed a scheme to deliberately
circumvent contractually required quality reviews of completed
background investigations in order to increase the company's
revenues and profits," DOJ said in its filing.
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The payments to the firm ranged $95 to $2,500, depending on the type
of background investigation. The lawsuit requested for a jury trial
and seeks to recover treble damages and penalties.
Through a software known as "Blue Zone," USIS was able to quickly
make an electronic "Review Complete" notation without fully going
through the mandated review process, DOJ said.
"By using Blue Zone, USIS was able to substantially increase the
number of background investigations that could be dumped in a short
time period," according to the filing.
USIS could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters outside
of regular U.S. business hours.
The case is United States Of America ex rel. Blake Percival vs U.S.
Investigations Services, Case No. 11-cv-527, U.S. District Court,
Middle District of Alabama (Northern Division)
(Reporting by Sakthi Prasad in Bangalore;
editing by Supriya Kurane)
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