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The Halliburton Whistle-|Blower Ship Has Sailed

(CN) - A federal judge has dismissed with prejudice allegations that Halliburton and KBR billed the government for water-purification services on U.S. military bases in Iraq that they never performed.

Benjamin Carter, a former employee of KBR who worked for the reverse osmosis water purification unit (ROWPU) in Iraq, filed suit under the False Claims Act, alleging that Halliburton "knowingly made, used or cause to be made or used, false records or statements to get false or fraudulent claims paid or approved by the government."

While working in Iraq, Carter was allegedly "required to fill in timecards stated that he worked 12 hours a day, each day, with uniformity, on ROWPU functions." In reality, he says he "actually worked 0 hours per day on ROWPU functions." His lawsuit claimed that all ROWPU employees were required to submit false timecards.

But U.S. District Judge James Cacheris dismissed Carter's complaint with prejudice on Dec. 12, under the first-to-file rule and statute of limitations.

Another whistle-blower filed similar claims in Maryland four years prior to this action in 2007, according to the heavily redacted decision. Although the Maryland case was voluntarily dismissed without prejudice in October 2011 for failure to serve the complaint, Cacheris said that "it is undisputed that the Maryland action was pending when Carter filed the instant suit."

The Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act (WSLA) moreover does not apply to "a civil false claims action brought by a relator, in which the United States has opted not to intervene," the 37-page decision states.

"Were this court to take August 31, 2010 as the end of the war in Iraq, application of the WSLA to Carter's claims would extend the limitations period to August 31, 2019 - almost fourteen years after the final fraudulent claims defendants allegedly submitted to the government," Cacheris wrote.

"Application of the WSLA as proposed by Carter would allow fraud to extend perhaps indefinitely," he added.

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