Middle District Of Florida U.S. Attorney’s Office Collects More Than $168 Million In Civil And Criminal Actions In Fiscal Year 2022
Orlando, FL – United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announces today that United Paradyne Corporation has agreed to pay the United States $375,000 to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by submitting claims to NASA for assembling and cleaning rocket launch systems that it had failed to perform.
The settlement relates to United Paradyne’s agreement to provide NASA with certain ground support equipment designed to support NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion space capsule for NASA’s Artemis program. Specifically, United Paradyne agreed to fabricate five Hydraulic Accumulator Rack Assembly Swing Arm Systems for the mobile launcher. The hydraulic accumulator racks actuate swing arms, also called umbilicals, on the mobile launcher and are responsible for providing the SLS rocket and Orion space capsule with power, communications, coolant, fuel, and stabilization prior to launch. The Crew Access Arm umbilical was designed for astronauts to access the Orion capsule and will be used on NASA’s Artemis II mission, the first SLS and Orion flight with astronauts in 2022.
According to the settlement agreement, United Paradyne submitted claims under NASA-KSC Contract No. NNK14EA09D for payment for delivery of the accumulator racks that failed to conform to the requirements of the contract approved by NASA. More specifically, the United States alleged that United Paradyne delivered five accumulator racks between August 11 and October 19, 2015, and that United Paradyne failed to clean the racks, failed to verify cleanliness, and failed to maintain cleanliness throughout functional testing and final inspection, and falsely certified that it conformed to NASA’s requirements.
“Violating NASA’s contractual requirements raises danger and risks to our space program and its personnel as well as harms the integrity of the federal contracting process,” said U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office remains committed to enforcing federal law and ensuring a system of fair play for all government contractors.”
“The NASA Office of Inspector General will continue to aggressively investigate all Whistleblower Qui Tam fraud allegations related to NASA operations and the building of the next generation space launch vehicle and related ground support equipment. I congratulate the Department of Justice and the Whistleblower Qui Tam relator in coming to an acceptable resolution in this civil matter with United Paradyne Corporation,” said Special Agent in Charge John Corbett, Central Field Office, NASA OIG.
The settlement concludes a lawsuit originally filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida by a former employee of United Paradyne, Steven Walker. Mr. Walker sued under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act permitting a private citizen to sue on behalf of the United States for false claims and to share in the recovery. The Act also allows the United States to intervene and prosecute the action. Mr. Walker will receive $75,000 of the proceeds from the settlement with United Paradyne.
This settlement resulted from a coordinated effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida and the NASA Office of Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorney Jeremy R. Bloor led the investigation.
The case is captioned United States ex rel. Steven James Walker v. United Paradyne Corporation, Case No. 6:17-cv-01507-ORL-18-TBS. The settlement resolves the United States’ claims in that case. The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.