Feds: Butler County firm that vetted Snowden 'flushed' 650,000 cases to clear backlog
Fraud had become so commonplace that local employees of a federal contractor apparently thought they had found a taxpayer-funded pot of gold.
Employees at the Butler County offices of U.S. Investigations Services “dumped” at least 665,000 background checks for the federal government by billing taxpayers even when the work was incomplete, the Justice Department alleges in a federal court filing this week.
“Tis Flushy McFlusherson at his merry highjinks again!!” the company's workload leader in Western Pennsylvania wrote in an email to bosses in suburban Washington.
Another time, around the holidays, the manager wrote: “Scalping tickets for ‘Dick Clark's Dumpin' New Year's Eve! … Who needs 2? Have a bit of a backlog building, but fortunately, most people are off this week so no one will notice!”
The Justice Department intervened in a whistle-blower lawsuit filed by a former USIS employee in Alabama, who claimed the dumping practices at the Western Pennsylvania office cheated taxpayers out of millions of dollars.
USIS conducted background checks on former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and Aaron Alexis, the accused Washington Navy Yard gunman, though the 25-page filing by the Justice Department mentions neither.
“Integrity and excellence are core values at USIS,” the company said in a statement in response to a Tribune-Review inquiry. “The alleged conduct referenced in the civil complaint is contrary to our values and commitment to exceptional service.”
The Justice Department filing said the practices were linked to a small group of eight senior managers identified only by title, not name. USIS's president/CEO established the internal revenue goals, and the chief financial officer determined how many cases needed to be reviewed or dumped to meet those goals.
Others identified included: vice president of field operations, president of the investigative service division, production support senior manager, director of national quality assurance, quality control manager in Western Pennsylvania and workload leader in Western Pennsylvania.
A USIS spokesman said the company replaced its top management, reinforced its processes and improved protocols.
Because USIS was paid fees ranging from $95 to $2,500 for every government job background investigation it completed and reviewed for quality controls, the company made more money by processing more cases. When employees at the Western Pennsylvania office could not keep up with projections, they started to “dump” or “flush” the cases they couldn't handle between March 2008 and September 2012, the Justice Department said.
At first, the employees were dumping a few files manually each day, but eventually they started using software to substantially increase the number. The workload leader in Western Pennsylvania coordinated with senior managers in the company's Falls Church, Va., office to set the number of cases to dump each day. The volume tended to increase significantly at the end of a month, quarter or year.
Most of the background checks involved less-complicated investigations, but they spanned employees and contractors at most government agencies, including the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Defense and Treasury. Government officials were so convinced that USIS was doing a thorough job that they awarded the company $11 million in bonuses in three years, from 2008 to 2010.
Behind the scenes, the company's vice president of field operations wrote to other employees in an email: “We all own this baby, and right now we are holding one ugly baby.”
In response to that, the Western Pennsylvania workload leader advised that the company had only two options: Hire more people or continue dumping files.
“I don't know if there's any other levers left to flip other than dumping everything we know is bad,” the manager wrote in an email.
Doing that, the manager added, “will only make that ugly baby even uglier.”
Andrew Conte is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7835 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Add Andrew Conte to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Gunfire wounds man near Riverview Park
- Allegheny County Airport gets FAA grant to trim trees under flight path
- One person taken to hospital after fire in Scott
- Civil War vet gets 21-gun salute
- County police officer on leave after assault charges filed
- Port Authority of Allegheny County eyes $2M in detour costs
- Newsmaker: H. Scott Cunningham
- Overnight closures, lane restrictions announced for Fort Pitt Tunnel, Parkway West
- Teen caught after stolen car crashes in Homewood
- Man convicted in North Side stabbing
- Pa. trooper jailed in co-worker’s fatal shooting during training class