WASHINGTON – The United States has filed a False Claims Act lawsuit against Toyobo Co. Ltd. of Japan and its American subsidiary, Toyobo America Inc., for their roles in the manufacture and sale of defective Zylon bullet-proof vests to U.S., state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies, the Justice Department announced today. According to the suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the vests were paid for by federal funds.
These vests were sold by a variety of body armor manufacturers. Previously, the United States intervened against Toyobo and Second Chance Body Armor Inc. in a separate False Claims Act qui tam lawsuit for defective Zylon bullet-proof vests sold by Second Chance. Today’s lawsuit asserts claims against Toyobo for the Zylon contained in the vests sold by manufacturers other than Second Chance.
From 1999 to 2005, Toyobo manufactured and marketed Zylon, a high-tensile strength polymer fiber, for use in ballistic applications. However, Toyobo was aware of significant manufacturing and degradation problems that were inherent in both its fiber and in its manufacturing process. The government’s complaint alleges that Toyobo never had control of its manufacturing process, was manufacturing Zylon with serious defects that resulted in lower fiber strength, and knew that Zylon degraded much faster than was disclosed.
“The knowing provision of defective material for use in the bullet-proof vests worn by our federal agents and other law enforcement officers is more than just a fraud on the U.S. Treasury,” stated Peter D. Keisler, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division. “Toyobo’s conduct here put the lives of hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers at risk.”
The lawsuit was the result of an on-going investigation by the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, the General Services Administration Office of the Inspector General, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Army Criminal Investigative Division, the U.S. Agency for International Development Office of Inspector General, and the Air Force Office of Special Investigation.