Whistleblower Rewarded Over $2 Million for Exposing Contractor of Military Helicopters That Provided Unsafe Helicopters, Risking the Lives of Military Members Deployed to War Zones
An Illinois-based aviation services company and its subsidiary in Florida have agreed to pay the government $11,088,000 to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by breaching their contract to maintain military aircraft that were “fully mission capable.”
The aviation service companies own and maintain helicopters. They had contracted with the Department of Defense to supply helicopters for use in transporting cargo and personnel in support of missions in Afghanistan and Africa. However, according to a whistleblower, the aviation companies schemed to maximize profits by failing to provide the resources needed to maintain the helicopters. This resulted in the helicopters not being airworthy. Yet, the companies continued to certify the helicopters as “fully mission capable.” Thus, it was alleged, the companies knowingly risked the lives of military personal who were using the aircraft while deployed in war zones and committing fraud against U.S. taxpayers.
The same companies also paid an additional amount to resolve a separate matter brought by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) against them for deficiencies in helicopter maintenance work.
This lawsuit originated from a former employee of the aviation service companies who brought suit under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act. Whistleblower lawsuits allow private parties, known as “relators,” to bring suit on behalf of the government and to share in any recovery, usually 15% to 25% of the settlement amount. In this case, the whistleblower will receive $2,162,160. The False Claims Act allows the government to intervene and prosecute an action, as it did in this case. Fraud in government contracting is often exposed by individuals with knowledge that the fraud is occurring, as in this case. Whistleblowers may be employees, clients, or competitors of the wrongdoer. Such individuals can use their inside knowledge to bring fraud to the attention of the government, saving lives and protecting taxpayer money.