News

U.S. files fraud charges against firm that vetted Snowden

U.S. files fraud charges against firm that vetted Snowden

CHARGES FILED: 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. Photo: Reuters

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 application.

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 the government.

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.

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)

Recent Headlines

yesterday in National

Calls for peace at Kansas shooting memorial

kansas

The scene of a hate crime just days ago became the setting for tears, prayers and calls for peace.

yesterday in National

Obama budget plan would boost U.S. tax revenue, cut deficits

obama

The Congressional Budget Office says the 2015 budget could boost tax revenues while slashing deficits by $1.05 trillion.

yesterday in Sports

Thursday’s Sports Minute

durant

The Thunder secure No. 2 seed, the Cubs' visit to Yankee Stadium doesn't go well, and more.

yesterday in National

Jobless rates hover at near pre-recession levels

jobs

New applications for unemployment benefits held near their pre-recession levels last week.

yesterday in Sports

Wall Street fund managers buy Milwaukee Bucks

bucks

Hedge fund managers are buying the Milwaukee Bucks for $550 million, becoming the latest Wall Street financiers to own a sports club.