AAR Corp., located in Wood Dale, Ill., And its subsidiary, AAR Airlift Group Inc. (Airlift), located in Melbourne, Fla., Have agreed to pay the United States $ 11,088,000 to resolve the allegations of the False Claims Act relating to aircraft maintenance services. carried out by Airlift on two US Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) contracts.
The allegations relate to helicopters that Airift owned and maintained to transport cargo and Department of Defense (DoD) personnel in support of DoD missions in Afghanistan and Africa. Regulation resolves allegations that Airlift knowingly failed to maintain nine aircraft in accordance with contract requirements and that due to this failure the helicopters were not airworthy and should not have been certified by Airlift as “fully fit for the mission”.
AAR and Airlift also agreed to pay $ 429,273.69 to resolve a separate Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) case citing deficiencies in Airlift helicopter maintenance.
“Conscious non-compliance with contractual obligations is unacceptable, especially when such breaches raise security concerns,” said Acting Deputy Attorney General Brian M. Boynton for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. “Today’s regulation reaffirms that the government will require contractors to meet quality and safety standards in their contracts that aim to protect our men and women in uniform.
“Defense contracts are a special trust because they support the military who protect our nation’s interests around the world,” said US Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft for the Southern District of Illinois. “Anytime a military contractor cuts corners, it not only presents possible fraud against taxpayers, but also a potential danger to the safety of our soldiers. The regulations announced today address both of these concerns. I am especially grateful to my staff, the many dedicated officers who worked on this case, and the witnesses who came forward. “
“Our military has a right to rely on the performance of top contractors when purchasing essential services like those at issue here,” said Acting US Attorney Karin Hoppmann for the Central District of Florida. “We are grateful for the diligent and collaborative work put into this investigation by the Southern District of Illinois, the Civil Fraud Section of the Department of Justice and all investigative agencies that have supported these cases.”
“Failure to properly maintain airplanes is unacceptable under all circumstances, but it is particularly flagrant in a war zone, where the lives of American fighters are at stake,” said John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan (SIGAR). “I am proud of the work of SIGAR’s special agents – in Afghanistan and the United States – whose collaboration made this case successful.
“The Department of Air Force (OSI) Special Investigations Office congratulates the Complainant for coming forward, which has enabled us and our joint investigative partners to vigorously protect the procurement process.” of the DoD, to preserve the military’s ability to carry out its combat mission and to ensure the wrongdoers were held accountable, ”said Special Agent in Charge Nicholas J. Groesbeck of the Fraud Detachment. OSI Supply 4, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH.
“This case demonstrates the commitment of the Defense Criminal Investigation Service (DCIS), as well as our partner agencies, to aggressively prosecute those who ignore and ignore critical security and contractual specifications on Department of Defense contracts. “said Acting Special Agent in Charge Gregory. P. Shilling from the DCIS Southwest Regional Office. “Today’s resolution highlights the culmination of investigative efforts to hold those who supply the Department of Defense to account for their products and actions.”
“It is unacceptable for anyone to circumvent contractual agreements and especially security guidelines aimed at ensuring the well-being of our American servicemen and women,” said Christopher Gray, spokesman for the US Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) . “We will continue to aggressively investigate allegations like this and work closely with our law enforcement partners to achieve a successful resolution.”
“Failure to perform critical maintenance on Defense Ministry aircraft poses a serious and unnecessary threat to our country’s military readiness,” said Special Agent in Charge Michael DeFamio of the Central Field Office. of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). “NCIS and our federal law enforcement partners remain committed to fully investigating all allegations of contract fraud that compromise the safety of our military and waste US taxpayer dollars.”
“Those who are certified to perform critical aircraft inspections and maintenance must adhere to aviation regulations to ensure that safety is not compromised,” said Special Agent in Charge Todd Damiani of the office of US Department of Transportation Inspector General, Southern Region. . “Today’s settlement clearly demonstrates that we will vigorously pursue those who prefer profit over the quality and integrity of the work they are charged with doing.”
“Improper aircraft maintenance creates a safety risk that we absolutely will not tolerate,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “Today’s agreement makes it clear that failure to meet maintenance requirements is unacceptable.”
Civil settlement includes the settlement of claims brought under the qui tam or the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act by Christopher Harvey, a former employee of Airlift. The law allows private parties to sue for false claims on behalf of the United States and participate in any recovery. the qui tam the case is captioned US ex rel. Harvey v. AAR Corp., et al., n ° 3: 15-cv-00390 (SD Ill.). Mr. Harvey will receive $ 2,162,160 from the False Claims Act settlement.
The resolution obtained in this case is the result of a coordinated effort between the Commercial Litigation Directorate of the Civil Division, Fraud Section; the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois; and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Florida, with assistance from the US Transportation Command, FAA, Air Force OSI, DCIS, NCIS, Army CID, Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General, of the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) and SIGAR.
The case was investigated by Civil Division Trial Attorney Elspeth A. England and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nathan D. Stump and Laura J. Barke of the Southern District of Illinois and Randy Harwell of the Central District of Florida.
The claims resolved by the settlement are only allegations, and there has been no determination of liability.