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

in National

Amanda Knox murder conviction overturned

FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2014, file photo, Amanda Knox prepares to leave the set following a television interview in New York. Knox is engaged to Colin Sutherland, a musician who recently moved to Seattle from New York, a person close to the Knox family confirmed for The Associated Press. Knox’s murder conviction in the 2007 stabbing of her roommate has been reinstated by an Italian court, but the former college exchange student maintains her innocence and vows she won’t willingly go back to Italy. Both Knox and Sutherland are 27. No wedding date had been set.

Italy's highest court has overturned the murder conviction against Amanda Knox, bringing to a definitive end the high-profile case.

in National

Time for Iran to make tough decisions in nuclear talks

In this March 26, 2015, photo, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, center, leaves a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. officials at a hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland. U.S. and Iranian diplomats gather at a Baroque palace in Europe, a historic nuclear agreement within reach. Over Iraq’s deserts, their militaries fight a common foe. Leaders in Washington and Tehran, capitals once a million miles from each other in ideological terms, wrestle for the first time in decades with the notion of a rapprochement.

Six world powers and Iran move closer to a deal, but there are still major disagreements.

in Sports

This week’s top sports shots

AP564917773040_12

A look at some of the biggest plays and best photos in sports this week.

in Sports

This weekend’s sports schedule

playball

A look at some of this weekend's biggest sporting events.

in National

Making headlines this week

AP193442892434_0

A look at some of the week's biggest headlines and the stories you may have missed.