On December 4, a federal judge unsealed a whistleblower lawsuit alleging that Sullivan Land Services Co. (SLSC) and its subsidiary, Ultimate Concrete (UC), submitted false claims to the government about the costs of constructing the Mexican/American border wall and hired workers who had not been properly vetted by the U.S. government. The lawsuit was first filed in February by two whistleblowers who had been contracted to provide security for the building companies. The whistleblowers accuse SLSC and UC of “knowingly permitting and actively facilitating the crossing of the U.S.-Mexico border by armed Mexican nationals” by building an unapproved dirt road.
Before the lawsuit was unsealed, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) was given the opportunity to assume control of the case and prosecute it with the help of the whistleblowers, or relators. The DOJ declined to do so in this case, allowing it to continue without their assistance.
According to the lawsuit, the two anonymous whistleblowers are both former law enforcement officers. One worked as a Special Agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for nearly 13 years, while the other was a former deputy sheriff in San Diego County. Both whistleblowers were hired as security officers for the border wall construction project. They claim that SLSC and UC overbilled the government for building materials and supplies, such as diesel fuel for construction machines. The complaint states: “If they were using a forklift, they would use it only sporadically throughout the day but charge the government for fuel, in sum and substance, ‘as if it was running all the time.’” The complaint also alleges that SLSC and UC submitted false records for border wall costs and hid profits during the construction of the project.
The complaint claims that in July 2019, a SLSC supervisor pressured one of the whistleblowers to not include any information about the illicit Mexican nationals guarding the construction project in reports that were due to be filed with the Army Corp of Engineers. One of the whistleblowers also claims that they brought up their concerns about the border guards with a superior, who said that the guards were approved to work there. The whistleblower did not believe this. The supervisor allegedly said to the whistleblower: “What are you going to do about it?” The Army Corp of Engineers has recently said that they will investigate discrepancies between their records of the project and the reports that UC has filed with them.
The lawsuit was filed under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, which allows whistleblowers to file on behalf of the government and receive a reward if their case proves successful. Whistleblowers are eligible for 10 to 30% of the total money that the government recovers from the company.
Read the NY Times article here.