U.S. Navy Concrete Contractor in Djibouti Admits Fraudulent Conduct and Will Pay More than $12.5 Million
Mark W. Pletcher (619) 546-9714 and Andrew J. Galvin (619) 546-9721
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – February 17, 2021
SAN DIEGO – Colas Djibouti, a contractor for the Department of the Navy at Camp Lemonnier and Chabelley Airfield, and the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti, admitted today that it faked testing results and submitted a series of false documents and false claims to the United States as part of a scheme to defraud the United States in the sale of substandard concrete used to construct U.S. Navy airfields in Djibouti.
Colas Djibouti, a French limited liability company, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Colas SA, a French civil engineering company. According to documents filed in court, as part of its contracts with the Department of the Navy, Colas Djibouti was required to certify that it supplied concrete with specific composition and characteristics. Notwithstanding these obligations, Colas Djibouti created fictitious testing results, made fraudulent representations regarding the concrete’s composition and characteristics, and knowingly provided concrete to the United States that did not comply with the specifications.
In one particularly egregious example, in response to a request for an analysis of the water used in the concrete mix, Colas Djibouti provided an analysis for a store-bought bottle of drinking water. As a result of this criminal conduct, Colas Djibouti ultimately supplied substandard concrete to the Department of Navy in Djibouti that could promote early cracking, surface defects, and corrosion of embedded steel, and thus significantly impair the concrete’s long-term durability.
In accordance with its agreement with the United States, Colas Djibouti will forfeit $8 million, pay another $2,042,002 to the Department of Navy in restitution, and pay a monetary penalty of $2.5 million.
“Wherever our Navy goes, we go,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer in the Southern District of California. “We will continue to unwaveringly protect our American warfighters from fraud, graft and corruption as they protect us from enemies foreign and domestic.”
The case was investigated by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the Defense Contract Audit Agency. U.S. Attorney Brewer specifically commended the many agents and auditors who worked on this case in Djibouti and the United States, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark Pletcher and Andrew Galvin, for their dedication and perseverance in the face of challenging circumstances.
“Our Sailors and Marines depend upon high quality products and services from our Department of the Navy contractors in order to meet the Department’s world-wide mission,” said acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Harker. “This outcome demonstrates that the Department of the Navy will continue to insist that our contractors must meet our high standards. This global settlement demonstrates the strong cooperation between the Department of the Navy and the Department of Justice in preventing fraud, no matter where in the world it happens.”
The criminal case was investigated and prosecuted as part of the Africa Strike Force, an initiative by the Major Fraud and Public Corruption Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego, in conjunction with its law enforcement partners from the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, among others. As the Department of Defense provides military and humanitarian aid throughout Africa to combat the rise of violent extremism from the likes of Boko Haram, Al Shabab and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Africa Strike Force was formed to serve an unmet need in protecting American interests from fraud and corruption. Africa Strike Force also recently announced charges against Micheline Pollock, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contractor who was indicted for defrauding the United States on military and humanitarian construction contracts throughout Africa.
Today’s criminal resolution, announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California, was accompanied by the announcement by the Department of Justice, Civil Division, Commercial Litigation Branch of a simultaneous resolution of allegations of civil wrongdoing, under which Colas Djibouti will pay an additional $1,857,998.00.
“Government contractors that supply substandard materials to our armed forces not only cheat the American taxpayers but also impose added costs and burdens on the military,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “Today’s settlement demonstrates our commitment to ensure that those who do business with the government comply with their contractual obligations.”
“Aircraft taxiways are essential to military operations, and therefore require concrete that conforms to the high standards and specifications of the Department of Defense,” said Stanley A. Newell, Special Agent-in-Charge for the DCIS Transnational Operations Field Office. “The DCIS along with our investigative partners will vigorously root out illegal conduct like this that threatens U.S. military readiness and harms the integrity of the Department of Defense procurement system.”
"Protecting Navy interests is a top priority of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Anyone considering defrauding the Navy and U.S. taxpayers should know NCIS will aggressively pursue all such allegations, in concert with our law enforcement partners and the Department of Justice," said Todd Battaglia, Special Agent in Charge of the NCIS Europe and Africa Field Office.
DEFENDANT Corporate Location Case Number
Colas Djibouti Djibouti, Djibouti 21CR0280-WQH
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1349 and 1343
Maximum Penalty: Twice the pecuniary gain or twice the pecuniary loss, whichever is greater
Defense Criminal Investigative Service
Naval Criminal Investigative Service
Defense Contract Audit Agency