DOJ charges background check company with fraud

The Justice Department is accusing the company that performed the background check for former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden of defrauding the government out of millions of dollars.

In a U.S. District Court filing, the department claimed management at U.S. Investigations Services (USIS) “devised and executed a scheme” to fake background investigations “in order to increase the company’s revenues and profits.”

According to the department, USIS fraudulently presented thousands of incomplete background checks to the government for more than fours years. Company officials allegedly referred to the practice as “dumping” or “fishing.”

USIS performed background checks on behalf of the government for Snowden, who released thousands of documents about the government’s surveillance systems, as well as Aaron Alexis, the military contractor who killed 12 people in a shooting at Washington Navy Yard last year.

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The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has hired USIS, based in Falls Church, Va., to conduct background investigations for the government since 1996. The company was paid between $95 and $2,500 for each check.

“Given that USIS was paid by OPM for each completed case, the more cases USIS completed each month the more money it received from OPM,” the government claimed in the court filing.

The activity allegedly occurred at USIS’s facility in western Pennsylvania and was primarily carried out by one workload leader. The employee encouraged staffers to “dump” some or all of the requests they had been unable to finish, in order to meet monthly goals.

According to the filing, USIS’s management “was aware of and directed the dumping practices.”

Based on its work, the company also received bonuses in 2008, 2009 and 2010 that added up to more than $11.7 million.

“Had OPM been aware of USIS’s actions … it would not have awarded USIS the bonuses above because it would not have deemed USIS’s performance acceptable in the timeliness and/or program management areas,” the government said in the filing.

The Justice Department’s complaint joined a lawsuit against the company from former employee Blake Percival, who worked at USIS for a decade.

— The filing was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday evening.