Contractor Fraud|Seen in Afghanistan

     HOUSTON (CN) – Fluor Intercontinental lost government property worth “tens of millions” of dollars on a military contract in Afghanistan and fired three whistleblowers, the workers claim in court.
     Rickey Mackey, Baldemar Mercado and Goldie Byrd sued Fluor on July 3 in Federal Court.
     Uncle Sam awarded Fluor a contract in September 2008 to provide logistics services for the military and its allies in Afghanistan.
     “As part of this task order, Fluor was entrusted with the management of millions of dollars worth of U.S. Government property,” the complaint states.
     The plaintiffs were stationed at Bagram from 2012 to 2014, assigned to Fluor’s Property Department, where they say they noticed problems with the company’s accounting methods.
     Federal contractors are required to keep track of all government property in their possession, mark it as owned by the USA and maintain an auditable list of all transactions. They also must track lost, stolen, damaged and destroyed government property, so the government can determine if the contractor is at fault.
     “If the contractor is liable, the contractor must repay the government for the damages,” the complaint states. This is called the “Lost, Theft, Damaged, or Destroyed (‘LTDD’) reporting process.”
     Facing millions of dollars in liability for losing government property, Fluor turned to “inventory accounting tricks” to cover its tracks, the plaintiffs say.
     Mackey, Fluor’s Theatre Property Manager in Afghanistan, says he saw the fraud firsthand.
     In October 2012, Mackey says, his boss sent Fluor’s official end of year report to Uncle Sam, stating that the Materials Department had no losses to report.
     “But, in reality, there were over nine-hundred (900) line items of materials valued at $791,426.00 that had not been accounted for,” Mackey says.
     He claims that Fluor’s fraud was just getting started.
     “The unreported losses continued to pile up and by July 2013 the number of LTDDs that should have been reported to the Government, but were not, comprised property worth tens of millions of taxpayer dollars,” according to the lawsuit.
     “Mackey continued to complain and raise his concerns, but Fluor’s leadership continued to ignore this systematic problem and to retaliate against Mackey for raising the issue,” the complaint states.
     Mackey says his boss threatened to file a defamation lawsuit against him for airing concerns about the inventory.
     Mackey started his job with eight employees working for him, but after he spoke up about the cover-up, Fluor reassigned five of them, he says. Then Fluor transferred him to a department that didn’t need him, and fired him, Mackey says.
     Mercado says he worked for Fluor as a Senior Government Property Specialist in charge of 30 employees and $140 million worth of property in Bagram.
     Fluor fired him in February 2014. Mercado says the boss who fired him told him “he was being terminated because he knew too much about Fluor’s property problems and accounting issues in the Bagram Materials Department.”
     Byrd worked for Fluor as a Property Specialist in Afghanistan.
     She says she got on the company’s bad side after she determined a manager had falsified documents to hide that the manager had lost a cell phone, which is a “Sensitive Item” and requires the filing of a lost item report.
     Fluor fired her and refused to let her stay in Afghanistan for two weeks to look for another job, as it let other workers do, but ordered her to leave Afghanistan within 72 hours, Byrd says.
     All three want their jobs back, twice their back pay, and damages for retaliation under the False Claims Act.
     They are represented by Lionel Martin of Stafford, Texas.
     Fluor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
     Although the complaint says Fluor lost millions of dollars in government property, the only item it specifies is the lost cell phone.
     After 13 years and the deaths of 2,224 U.S. soldiers, the federal government declared the war in Afghanistan over in December 2014. It was the longest war in U.S. history.
     The U.S. military are still training Afghanistan troops. Every hour, U.S. military operations in Afghanistan cost U.S. taxpayers $4 million, according to nationalpriorities.org.

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