On October 17, 2012, ABC ran a feature story involving two whistleblowers represented by The Employment Law Group® law firm. The whistleblowers are former employees of Jorge Scientific Corporation, a defense and intelligence contractor with the federal government recently filed a qui tam lawsuit against the company for misconduct they witnessed while working for the company overseas in Kabul, Afghanistan.
According to attorney David Scher, who represents the whistleblowers, “the case represents one of the most egregious violations of the trust the U.S. government has placed in a defense contractor to look out for and protect American interests in a war zone such as Afghanistan.”
The former employees – Kenneth Smith (a decorated former police officer) and John Melson (a former U.S. Marine who currently serves in the U.S. Army National Guard) –brought their suit under the False Claims Act, a law that allows relators such as themselves, to bring qui tam actions against wrongdoers on behalf of the federal government on account of fraudulent activity involving government contracts.
In their suit, Smith and Melson assert that Jorge Scientific failed to meet is responsibilities as a government contractor and engaged in irresponsible conduct involving taxpayer money. Specifically, the whistleblowers claim that Jorge Scientific’s vice president, Chris Sullivan, encouraged gross misconduct in at the company’s Kabul location that cause the former employees to resign from their positions as security and protection professionals. Smith and Melson further charge that Jorge Scientific’s executives’ actions compromised the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and imperiled the lives of other company employees, in addition to U.S. and coalition military and government personnel.
The lawsuit claims that Jorge executives repeatedly violated the company’s rules of conduct including: indiscriminately firing weapons and possessing prohibited grenades, and tossing live ammunition into bonfires while intoxicated during parties, thereby causing the bullets to explode and, in one instance, a bullet struck a company employee near his eye. Furthermore, the suit alleges that Jorge Scientific ignored complaints by U.S. military personnel after servicemembers discovered errant bullets in the nearby community. Many of these “parties” took place during work hours and were paid for with taxpayer funds, the lawsuit alleges.
The relators – Smith and Melson – claim that for their refusal to participate in this misconduct, Jorge Scientific retaliated against them by isolating them, using racist and homophobic epithets toward them, and remanding that they consume alcohol and illegal drugs, an even physically threatening them during drunken brawls which the plaintiffs avoided. After this behavior persisted and fed up with the gross misconduct by their employers, Jorge Scientific forced the relators’ constructive discharge from their positions.
“The recorded video shows, without a doubt, the irresponsible and dangerous actions on the part of the Jorge corporation and supports the relator’s charges. We hope this legal action results in changed behavior by Jorge, the US military and other contractors representing American interests,” Scher added.
Part of the conduct described by the whistleblowers can be viewed here.
The Employment Law Group® law firm’s whistleblower attorneys have helped many clients file suit against employers that fraudulently bill the U.S. government, and have established favorable precedents under the retaliation provision of the False Claims Act.