Paul R. Brilles, Inc., which does business as P.B. Fasteners in Gardena, California, has paid the government $2.5 million to resolve allegations in a “whistleblower” lawsuit that it defrauded numerous federal government agencies over a 10-year period when it failed to conduct a certain test.
Without admitting wrongdoing, the aircraft parts firm on October 17 paid the $2.5 million to resolve the government’s civil fraud investigation and a whistleblower lawsuit filed in 2001. On October 24, the United States Attorney’s Office filed a notice that it was intervening in the lawsuit and asked United States District Judge Gary L. Taylor unsealed the case. Today Judge Taylor dismissed the case, pursuant to the government’s request.
P.B. Fasteners makes a range of fasteners, similar to nuts and bolts, for military aircraft. The lawsuit alleged that the company failed to perform one particular kind of test – a magnetic particle inspection – that was required by contracts the company had with the Pentagon. The magnetic particle inspection is designed to detect tiny cracks or gaps in the metal, which could lead to part failures in the field. Technicians at P.B. Fasteners skipped the test and falsified the paperwork provided to make it appear as though the test had been performed.
None of the fasteners manufactured by P.B. Fasteners are known to have failed in the field.
The case was filed pursuant to the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act by Michael Free and Armand Romero, two test technicians at P.B. Fasteners. Under the False Claims Act, private individuals can file suit on behalf of the government and receive up to 25 percent of the recovery when the government intervenes and takes over the case, as the government did here. In addition to the award that Free and Romero will receive, the company agreed to pay their attorney’s fees and costs.
The government investigation team in the case included agents from the Army Criminal Investigation Division; Office of the Inspector General, Department of Defense, Defense Criminal Investigative Service; and the Defense Contract Audit Agency.