Fluor pays $4 million to settle False Claims Act allegations arising from DOE contract

by Ben Vernia | June 17th, 2011

On June 17, the Department of Justice announced a settlement with Fluor Corporation relating to a criminal case that has led to four convictions already. According to DOJ’s press release:

Fluor Hanford Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fluor Federal Services Inc. and Fluor Corporation, has agreed to pay the United States $4 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly submitted false claims and paid and received kickbacks relating to a contract to operate and manage mixed radioactive waste at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Hanford Nuclear Site in Hanford, Wash. Fluor Corporation is headquartered in Irving, Texas, near Dallas.

Between 2003 and 2008, Fluor employed individuals known as material coordinators, whose job responsibilities included purchasing supplies for use by Fluor on its DOE contract. Between 2003 and 2008, three such material coordinators, Susanna Zuniga, Gregory Detloff and Paul Kempf, made hundreds of fraudulent purchases using government purchase cards, using their positions and exploiting weaknesses in Fluor’s internal control system to funnel DOE funds to themselves.
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As early as 2001 and repeatedly between 2001 and 2008, internal audits conducted by Fluor alerted it to weaknesses in its purchase card controls, weaknesses exploited by the three material coordinators. Nonetheless, Fluor failed to address these weaknesses, allowing these schemes to go undetected for years.
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Additionally, between 2005 and 2008, at least 14 Fluor material coordinators solicited, received and accepted kickbacks from a Hanford-area vendor known as Fast Pipe and Supply Company and its owner, Shane Fast. These kickbacks, which took the form of cash, tickets to sporting events, gift cards and other things of value, were intended to influence the material coordinators to purchase from Fast rather than competing vendors. In return for these kickbacks, the 14 Fluor material coordinators did more than $3.5 million in business with Fast.
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Five former Fluor employees have been indicted for their participation in the fraudulent schemes. Four of the individuals have pleaded guilty, with the fifth awaiting trial.

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