ReadyOne Industries Inc. has agreed to pay $5 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by knowingly submitting false certifications regarding the annual percentages of direct labor hours performed by people with severe disabilities. ReadyOne, previously known as the National Center for Employment of the Disabled (NCED), is headquartered in El Paso, Texas, and is a manufacturer of apparel, boxes and other products. NCED was a participant in the AbilityOne Program, which creates employment opportunities for people who are blind or have other significant disabilities in the manufacture and delivery of products and services to the federal government.
The program uses the purchasing power of the federal government to buy approved products and services from participating, community-based nonprofit agencies nationwide. These community-based nonprofit agencies, like NCED, must ensure that 75% of all annual direct labor hours on certain government contracts are performed by employees who are blind or severely disabled. The program is managed by the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, which is a federal agency.
The United States alleges that between 2000 and 2006, NCED employed a large number of non-disabled employees to work on contracts for the manufacture of archival boxes, apparel and other items, and did not appropriately account for their hours as part of the overall ratios it certified and submitted to the committee. Stuart Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, had this to say:
The AbilityOne program is an important source of employment for people who are blind or have other significant disabilities. False certifications undermine that program and will not be tolerated.
The settlement arises from a whistleblower lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act by Michael Ahumada, a former employee of NCED. As we have written on numerous occasions, under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act a private citizens may file actions for false claims on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery.
Source: Corporate Crime Reporter
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