“Qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur”: He who brings an action for the king as well as for himself.
Three years ago, I looked up Dave Sweigert’s federal lawsuits on PACER and came across the docket of his 1992 qui tam lawsuit. Because that case is now 28 years old, the actual documents cannot be accessed electronically.
However, Justicia.com displays a 1996 U. S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Opinion, that explained upon review, that “Sweigert’s complaint was filed as a qui tam action under the False Claims Act. 31 U. S. C. §§3730-3733. Sweigert named Electronic Systems Associates, Inc. (ESA) and its president, Lemuel Kinney, accusing Kinney, through his corporation, of willfully misrepresenting material facts to the government, resulting in mischarges on certain federal contracts in violation of the False Claims Act. Sweigert was terminated from employment at ESA in November of 1991.”
“A magistrate judge recommended dismissing the complaint because Sweigert had failed to comply with the procedural requirements for qui tam actions under the False Claims Act. Specifically, Sweigert did not file his complaint en camera and did not serve a copy of the complaint on the government…”.
As Dave Sweigert recollects his 1992 lawsuit, “Lemuel Kinney’s company had contracts at several classified networking installations throughout the U. S. Air Force, including MacDill AFB, Tampa, Florida, and Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio”.
Prior to his lawsuit, Sweigert was working for Electronic Systems Associates at the U. S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) at MacDill AFB, supporting classified network operations and messaging systems that were used as part of communications support to troops deployed during Desert Shield and Desert Storm.”
Sweigert recalled that “Employees became suspicious when Kenny purchased a $175,000 yacht for cash and asked how it could be carried as a corporate asset as a ‘communications platform’.” He was specifically asked by Kinney “how the boat could be fashioned on paper as a tactical communications test-bed.”
Later, Dave Sweigert had apparently observed fax transmissions to the C. I. A. from Kinney on a secure fax at USSOCOM for which the company had no contracts. The fax transmissions were for supposed contracts that the company did not have with that agency. When Sweigert asked about those faxes, Kinney fired him.
Sweigert explains that his qui tam lawsuit was dismissed due to a procedural filing error, because it had not been filed “under seal” or “in camera”. When a local newspaper obtained a copy of the complaint and ran a story, the public disclosures of the allegations led to the eventual dismissal. The False Claims Act prohibits public disclosure of allegations during the period the U. S. Department would evaluate the case and decide on intervention into the lawsuit.
However, despite that situation, the Department of Justice did in fact prosecute the allegations which David Sweigert brought to the attention of the government, via his qui tam lawsuit.
The Senior Counsel for the U. S. Department of Justice Fraud Section
As noted in this Google book, documenting the nomination of Natalia M. Combs Greene by the U. S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Governmental Affairs, she recalled that during May 1990-December 1994, she was a Senior Counsel, Trial Attorney for the U. S. Department of Justice, Fraud Section, Criminal Division. In that capacity she recalled working on these cases: United States vs. Joseph Romello, CR No. 92-00418A and United States v. Lemuel Kinney and Electronic Systems & Associates, Inc., CR No.94-00057A.
Greene stated, “These matters, both of which resulted in guilty pleas involved a fraudulent scheme by defendants to obtain monies from the government. The case presented complex and interesting issues concerning fraud, money laundering and the Classified Information Procedures Act (“CIPA”). Defendant Romello was a contracting officer and managed contracts for the CIA and another intelligence agency in the intelligence community.”
“Lemuel Kinney was the president of Electronic Systems, Inc. (“ESA”), a subcontractor on a prime government contract to provide computer equipment and services to U. S. intelligence agencies. Romello and Kinney devised a plan to create an fraudulent contract requirements and to have ESA submit bids, at a predetermined amount and other information that would lead to the reward of the contract.”
“While ESA was to bid on the subcontracts and receive award of the contract (with Romello’s assistance), no equipment would be or was purchased under the subcontract. Romello and Kinney would share in the proceeds received as payment on the subcontract. Kinney assisted Defendant Romello to conceal funds received pursuant to the fraudulent scheme. Defendant Romello pleaded guilty fairly early, but defendant Kinney pleaded guilty on the eve of trial. The case was made very difficult because of the CIPA implications. The discovery process was difficult and arduous..”.
The New York Times coverage of the CIA employee who enabled the fraud
A New York Times article by the Associated Press printed October 4, 1992, Ex-Employee Admits He Bilked the C. I. A, stated, “A former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency has pleaded guilty to two felony counts for his role in defrauding the intelligence agency and the Federal Government of more than $1.2 million, Government officials said.”
“The employee, Joseph P. Romello, caused the C. I. A. to enter into two contracts for goods and services it never received, the agency and the Justice Department said in a joint statement on Friday. ‘The C. I. A. has not had a prior case of this magnitude in its 45-year history,’ the statement said. The guilty plea was made in Federal District Court in Alexandria, Va., the Government said.”
“Mr. Romello’s share of the $1.2 million in contract payments came to more than $750,000, the agency said.”
“Mr. Romello’s activities came to light less than six months after they began, as a result of an anonymous tip to the C. I. A.s inspector general, the agency said.”
“Mr. Romello, 41 years old, worked for the C. I. A. from 1970 to 1978. He left to work in private industry and then returned in January 1988. He was dismissed by the C. I. A. on July 27. He faces a maximum jail sentence of four years with no parole. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 4. Mr. Romello will also be required to pay back all the money he took, the agency said.”
The Dayton Daily News Archives
An archived January 16, 1992, article published by Wes Hill of the Dayton Daily News, titled, Fairborn Defense Contractor Cheated U. S., Ex-employee Claims in Lawsuit, began, “A Fairborn defense contractor charged a 43-foot pleasure yacht to the government, a former employee claims, and got the idea for how to do so from the office of the nation’s drug czar. David Sweigert, the former marketing director for Electronic Systems Associates, Inc., cites the yacht in a federal lawsuit in which he charges the company wrongfully charged off $506,108, including the yacht, to the U. S. Government.”
“Sweigert of Fort Wayne, Ind., said he accompanied Kinney to a meeting in Washington in 1991. There, he said, the ‘communications director’ for the Office of National Drug Control Policy told them how he had ‘allocated several hundred thousand dollars to the National Park Service for the purchase of a pursuit helicopter to be used (for) counter narcotics support’.”
“Since he had no authority to buy aircraft, he put the expenditure down as a ‘communications platform’, the lawsuit claims…Sweigert said he filed the lawsuit ‘on behalf of the U. S. government’ to force the company to make $506,108 in restitution for items wrongfully charged under federal contracts, including a computer maintenance and repair contract with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.”
In a follow-up article by Wes Hills for the Dayton Daily News, dated July 10, 1994, Schemer Awaits Sentencing, he began, “The scheme had everything from high-tech war games to a corrupt CIA insider, and ended up siphoning off more than $1 million in spy-agency cash.”
“Now a former Dayton businessman who once enjoyed top-secret federal clearance is awaiting sentencing on fraud-related charges, and the government wants its money back. According to federal court records, Lemuel Kinney went shopping for computer contracts at some of the nation’s most secret military and intelligence installations. He teamed up with the perfect partner, too-Joseph P. Romello, a program manager at the Central Intelligence Agency.”
“Romello directed a CIA prime contractor to funnel computer contracts to Kinney’s firm, Electronic Systems & Associates. He also instructed that contractor, MRJ Inc. of Oakton, Va., to pay Kinney for computers and a study that were never delivered. The scheme let Kinney and Romello defraud the CIA out of $1.2 million, according to records in U. S. District Court in Alexandria, Va.”
The Dayton Daily News quoted David Sweigert, the former employee who blew the whistle on Kinney, saying, “It’s pretty high-level”, as “he (Kinney) was running around rummaging through some of the most classified centers in the world, where three- and four-star generals were trying to figure out how to fight the next war.”
“Kinney and Romello might have gotten away with their plan if Sweigert hadn’t exposed them. Sweigert, who designed communications networks for Kinney’s firm in 1991, sued Kinney in U. S. District Court in Dayton in January 1992, alleging fraud. The lawsuit was ordered sealed, but the Dayton Daily News obtained a copy.”
“After seeing the lawsuit, the CIA and the U. S. Justice Department launched a criminal investigation in Alexandria. It led to Romello pleading guilty in October 1992 to charges of conspiracy and making false statements in federal court. He’s now serving a 41-month prison sentence and was ordered to pay restitution of $750,000. Kinney pleaded guilty in April to charges of mail fraud and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions…Kinney once dismissed Sweigert’s allegations as ‘totally baseless’. He could not be reached for comment for this story.”
As the LATimes.com writer Ronald J. Ostrow stated in his October 3, 1992 article, CIA Official Pleads Guilty in Fraud Case: Conspiracy: Joseph P. Romello is accused of scheming with others to steal about $1.2 million in agency funds, “The case dwarfs any other attempted frauds uncovered in the agency’s 45-year history, said CIA Director Robert M. Gates, who fired Romello on July 27 (1992).”
High compliments to Dave Sweigert for standing up for what was right in 1992, at age 32, when his career and reputation was being proven and established. “Qui Tam”, he who brings an action for the king as well as for himself”!