ATLANTA (AP) — A Kuwaiti military food supplier pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of defrauding the U.S. government on a multibillion-dollar contract to feed soldiers in the Middle East after more than a year of legal wrangling over a procedural issue.
The Public Warehousing Co., also known as Agility, denied charges filed in federal court in Atlanta that it manipulated a complex funding formula to defraud the U.S. government of at least $68 million in contracts to supply troops in Iraq, Kuwait and Jordan. It said in a statement it "welcomes the opportunity to clear its name by having an impartial jury" take up the case.
Prosecutors first charged the company in November 2009 with filing false invoices and statements to a logistics center and knowingly inflating prices. The firm is also accused of receiving rebates and discounts from vendors that it didn't pass on to the government, and inflating fees by asking vendors to pack products in more expensive packaging.
But the case stalled over whether the firm was properly served with the charges. A magistrate judge sided with the company in September, but the fight came to an end in March when a federal judge reversed the ruling. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals later declined to review his decision.
The federal investigation into the company is still ongoing. Prosecutors are investigating "potential new charges" and they are seeking to question Dan Mongeon, a retired U.S. Army general who is chief executive of an Agility unit, according to court records.
The company said its contract, which ran from 2003 to 2010, eliminated the need for an additional 3,000 to 5,000 uniformed troops overseas through its contract. It said 33 employees were killed and 262 others wounded performing the work.
"In bringing this case, the U.S. Department of Justice has criminalized what is, at most, a civil contract dispute," the company said in the statement. "Agility, as it has stated for nearly two years, remains open to a resolution of the case, but its focus is now on bringing the facts to light before a jury."