Whistleblower to receive $840K in settlement of suit against former Vance contractor

A T-38 takes off from Vance Air Force Base in this October 2018 file photo. (Billy Hefton / Enid News & Eagle)

ENID, Okla. — A whistleblower who filed a federal lawsuit against a former contractor at Vance Air Force Base will receive $840,000 as his portion of the company’s settlement with the U.S. government.

According to a statement provided to the News & Eagle Friday by Andrew Grosso & Associates, a Washington, D.C., law firm, former PAE Applied Technologies employee James Hughes will receive the payout under the whistleblower provisions of the federal False Claims Act.

Hughes filed suit against PAE on May 19, 2015, alleging PAE submitted false claims for wage rates above wage caps set in its contract with the Air Force. PAE held contracts at the base until 2016, and was alleged to have knowingly submitted false claims to the Air Force for employee wages during federal fiscal years 2009-2014.

Grosso & Associates represented Hughes, who was formerly a cost volume manager for PAE and as of June 2017 was a resident of Arlington, Texas, according to a copy of the lawsuit complaint provided the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma.

PAE settled the suit with the government on June 28 and agreed to pay $4.2 million — $2.2 million of which was restitution — according to a settlement agreement provided by the U.S. attorney’s office in Oklahoma City.

Grosso referred the News & Eagle Friday to a statement indicating Hughes will receive 20% of the $4.2 million settlement agreement for his role in bringing the suit against PAE. Twenty percent of that total is $840,000.

In reaching the settlement, PAE did not admit its liability, and the United States did not concede that its claims lack merit, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Oklahoma City.

Scott Williams, Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma, told the News & Eagle Friday it “would not be appropriate” after the settlement of the suit to “explain why we charged this civilly rather than criminally.”

Prior to December 2014, PAE-Applied Technologies LLC provided services to the Air Force under an aircraft maintenance, airfield management, aircrew life support and base operating support contract.

Vertex Aerospace took over the contract for flight operations at Vance in December 2014, when the contract previously held exclusively by PAE was split between Vertex and PAE. The Vertex contract at that time had a one-year value of $35.2 million.

PAE’s portion of the contract at that time was $43.5 million to perform all other service functions at Vance, including communications and information technology, housing management, operation and maintenance, space management, grounds and site maintenance, engineering services, environmental management, utilities and energy management, fire protection, supply, transportation, purchasing and community services.

In August 2016, ASRC Federal Communications won a five-year contract for the services previously performed by PAE.

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Neal is health, military affairs and religion reporter and columnist for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @jamesnealwriter, and online at jamesrneal.com. He can be reached at jneal@enidnews.com.

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