HAMMOND, IN (USDOJ.Today) United States Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II announced today a pre-suit settlement under the False Claims Act for false claims payable under a U.S. Department of Defense Contract for the Tactical Explosive Detection Dogs Program.
During 2010, the increased demand for military working dog teams in support of the U.S. Army’s mission in Afghanistan prompted the need for Tactical Explosive Detection Dogs (TEDDs) with the capability of off-leash explosive detection functions. Vohne Liche Kennels, Inc. of Denver, Indiana provides training for handlers and canines to perform specialized tasks, such as explosive detection. Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies have contracted with Vohne Liche Kennels for their training needs. Vohne Liche Kennels was sub-contracted in 2011 to provide personnel, equipment, tools, materials, supervision, and non‑personal services for the creation and operation of a training program for both military handlers and dogs for the TEDD program. Vohne Liche Kennels was further contracted to provide Field Service Representatives (FSRs) who co-located with military units in Afghanistan. The FSRs monitored the activities of the newly-trained TEDD handlers and dogs to reinforce and improve their techniques.
Vohne Liche Kennels has agreed to pay $1,350,000 to resolve the United States’ claims under the False Claims Act for fraudulently submitting claims for labor hours for trainers and FSRs involved in the TEDD program. Specifically, Vohne Liche Kennels inflated the number of labor hours billed for training sessions held at Vohne Liche Kennels’ Denver Indiana facility and at the U.S. Army’s proving grounds in Yuma Arizona. It also inflated the number of labor hours performed in Afghanistan by the FSRs. Under the settlement, Vohne Liche Kennels agrees to repay the $900,000 of federal funds that Vohne Liche Kennels received for the fraudulently billed claims, and also agrees to pay a civil penalty of $450,000.
“We will not tolerate dishonest contractors who seek to enrich themselves at the expense of federal taxpayers,” said United States Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II. “My Office’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Unit will continue to require contractors who submit fraudulent claims for federal government funds to reimburse the government for their ill-gotten gains and also pay civil penalties under the False Claims Act.”
“The Defense Criminal Investigative Service will continue to aggressively pursue companies such as Vohne Liche Kennels that increase profits by exploiting DoD contracts through false claims,” said Cynthia Bruce, Special Agent in Charge, DCIS Southeast Field Office.
“This settlement is another example of the exceptional efforts of our dedicated special agents,” said Frank Robey, Director of the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit (MPFU). “The MPFU looks forward to continuing to work with our law enforcement partners to address fraud, no matter how large or small.”
This settlement was reached as a result of an investigation by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Indiana, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Indianapolis Resident Agency, and the United States Army CID, Major Procurement Fraud Unit, Indianapolis Fraud Resident Agency. Assistant United States Attorney Wayne T. Ault handled the settlement negotiations.