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AFOSI reminds base community to be aware of fraud

Posted 4/7/2011   Updated 4/7/2011 Email story   Print story


by Special Agent Erin Finger
Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 102

4/7/2011 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- The Air Force Office of Special Investigations Detachment 102, Economic Crime Investigations Branch, located here at Hanscom, is helping to accomplish one of the Air Force's top priorities: to detect and defeat fraud impacting force acquisitions and base-level capabilities.

To get an idea of how much money is lost through fraud, in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice secured $3 billion in civil settlements and judgments in cases involving fraud against the government. Moreover, amounts recovered under the False Claims Act since January 2009 have eclipsed any previous two-year period, with $5.4 billion in taxpayer dollars returned to federal programs and the Treasury, according to the Justice Department's website.

This important mission relies not only on OSI's skilled agents, but it also depends heavily on employees who are aware of the consequences of defrauding the government, and know how OSI can assist them when suspicious activity is discovered.

"We need to be good stewards of the government's money, and make sure that the Air Force is getting what it pays for," Special Agent William Richards said. "It's the people out there doing their job that actually detect fraud. Law enforcement people can't be everywhere all the time, so we have to rely on the program managers, the contracting officers and the quality assurance personnel to let us know when they see something that might be suspicious."

In general terms, fraud is "any intentional deception designed to unlawfully obtain something of value for an individual benefit." Fraud investigations in the Air Force generally fall into two categories: Central Systems Economic Crime and Base Level Economic Crime. Base Level Economic Crime investigations generally involve individuals, small groups or smaller-scope contracts that affect a specific unit or base.

Examples of these types of investigations include pay or allowance fraud and Government Purchase Card fraud. Central Systems Economic Crime Investigations generally involve large dollar contracts that impact the entire Air Force, such as the research projects and space and technology acquisitions.

In one recent Central Systems case, a Qui Tam, or whistleblower, complaint alleged EMC Corporation, a company contracted by the U.S. Air Force to supply computer storage platforms, submitted false claims to the U.S. Government for computer platform servers and related services containing defective parts. The whistleblower revealed EMC knew of the defects, but intentionally concealed them. These defective systems caused shutdowns of classified computer systems and severely affected wartime operations.

As a result of the investigation and the settlement negotiations, EMC entered into a settlement agreement and paid the government $3,536,826.89, which included $36,826.89 in interest.

"Detecting fraud helps to make sure that all of the troops out in the field get the proper equipment and products that were paid for, and that companies aren't cutting corners," said Special Agent Christopher Magner, the case agent in this example.

The EMC case not only serves as a reminder of what defrauding the government can lead to, but also reminds employees that there are avenues for reporting suspicious behavior. In much the same way the OSI Eagle Eyes program relies on citizens to report suspicious indicators of terrorism, economic crime investigations often rely on conscientious government employees and contractors to report suspected fraud, waste or abuse. This is the reason OSI invests heavily in presentations, liaison visits and other types of outreach.

"We want people to know that when we come by their offices we aren't trying to get people in trouble. Our job is to find out if anyone is defrauding the government, but we also want people to know that if they see something suspicious they can come and see us," said Special Agent Erin Finger. "We don't expect everyone to know what constitutes fraud or how to identify it. We are always looking for opportunities to give fraud awareness briefings and to educate people in all career fields about common fraud schemes."

Special Agent Michael Granberry, Economic Crime Investigations Branch Chief, emphasized the "big picture" in terms of what results from fraud investigations.

"There are measurable dollar savings, accidents are prevented and lives preserved," he said. "Taken together, these things enhance our combat readiness and increase the public confidence in the U.S. Air Force."

For more information, to request a fraud awareness briefing or to report suspicious behavior, contact the AFOSI general office number at 781-377-4605 or contact OSI using the "Crimebusters" email at hqafosi.watch@ogn.af.mil.

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