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Military Contractor Indicted Over Safety Claims

Fri, 07/20/2012 - 1:43am
Larry O'Dell, Associated Press

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) — A federal grand jury in Virginia indicted a military contractor Thursday on charges of misrepresenting the level of protection provided by armored vehicles used by VIP convoys in Iraq.

The 13-count indictment charges Armet Armored Vehicles and its president, 67-year-old William R. Whyte of Ontario, Canada, with major fraud against the United States, wire fraud and false claims.

"The Department of Justice has no higher priority than protecting our national security," U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphey said in a written statement. "We will work to ensure that the goods provided by contractors to the brave men and women of our military meet safety standards and contract specifications."

In an email response to questions about the indictment, Whyte said, "I'm of course shocked at the allegations against me which I totally deny." He said he is prepared to meet with the prosecutors, but is currently without legal counsel.

According to the indictment, in 2006 Armet signed two contracts worth nearly $6.4 million to provide 32 armored gun trucks to the Department of Defense. The contracts said the vehicles would provide security to Iraqi VIPs who regularly traveled by motorcade through "a hostile and dangerous environment."

Passenger compartments and ceilings were required to be built to resist armor-piercing bullets. The undercarriage of each armored vehicle was supposed to be able to withstand grenades and other blasts, and the trucks were to be equipped with run-flat tires.

The company delivered only seven vehicles, one of which was rejected by the military. According to the indictment, none the trucks met the contract specifications, despite the company's written certifications to the contrary.

The defendants "knew that all of the armored gun trucks they had provided were defective and would not protect the officials that they were intended to protect, and that in so doing they were consciously or recklessly risking serious personal injury to the occupants of those armored gun trucks," the indictment says.

Court papers indicate the government will seek to recoup the approximately $2 million it paid Armet.

No hearing date has been set.

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