Ex-Mountain Top man blows whistle on military fraud case

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First Posted: 7/10/2013

MOUNTAIN TOP — Charles Ferner calls his son “a real hero.”

Ferner, of Mountain Top, said his son, retired Lt. Col. Timothy Ferner, reported a multi-million-dollar fraud case, blowing the whistle on an improper deal that was condoned by his superiors.

The law firm that represented him — James, Hoyer, Newcomer & Smiljanich, P.A., of Tampa, Fla. — said Ferner “bucked the chain of command putting his career on the line” to expose the fraud, waste and abuse.

According to the law firm, major defense contractor Science Applications International Corporation agreed to pay the U.S. government $5.75 million to settle allegations that it circumvented the bidding process and induced the Air Force to award the company lucrative contracts.

Ferner, 49, a career military man with 27 years in the U.S. Air Force, filed the whistle blower suit in 2010.

Ferner graduated from Scranton Prep High School and attended The University of Scranton before finishing his degree at the University of California at Irvine. He is the son of Charles and the late Beverly McCarthy Ferner of Mountain Top.

Ferner retired early from the Air Force in 2010 and moved to New Zealand, his wife’s native country. He lives on a 25-acre alpaca farm and is taking classes at a local university there. He was not available for comment Wednesday.

Law firm’s statement

According to Angie Moreschi, communications director/investigator at James Hoyer Newcomer & Smiljanich, the law firm issued a press release detailing the case that has caught national attention.

The release states: “This was a case of fraud, waste and abuse involving taxpayer money that one military officer refused to accept. It’s been a frustrating and life changing ordeal for Lt. Col. Ferner, but we salute his effort to expose wrongdoing, even though it put his career on the line by bucking the chain of command.”

According to the release, Ferner was chief of staff for the Coalition and Irregular Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas when SAIC was awarded a multi-million-dollar contract in 2007 to help CIWC develop enhanced warfare capabilities in the fight against terrorism. Ferner became suspicious that normal contract procedures were bypassed and was alarmed that his military supervisors condoned and wanted to cover up the violation.

Ferner is quoted in the release, stating: “We were basically paying guys to sit around at computers and play games. The more contractors that came in, the less work that got done. And the more that occurred, the angrier I got, because we were not being good stewards of the taxpayers’ money. It was wrong. It was illegal and it was immoral.”

‘Told to keep quiet’

The release states Ferner reported his concerns up the chain of command, but his efforts to expose the wrongdoing were rebuffed.

“He was told to keep quiet,” the release states. “When he wouldn’t, he eventually faced retaliation. His superiors threatened to deploy him to Afghanistan while he was undergoing cancer treatment. Ultimately, Ferner was fired from his job and relegated to a menial position with little to no responsibility.”

The whistle blower suit was joined by the U.S. Department of Justice. As a reward under the False Claims Act for exposing fraud against the government, Lt Col Ferner received nearly $1 million of the nearly $5.75 million SAIC paid back to the government.

The Justice Department issued a statement on the settlement:

“Federal contracts must be awarded based on full disclosure and fair dealing. It is completely unacceptable for taxpayer dollars to be paid under circumstances where the integrity of the contracting process has been undermined.”

SAIC’s viewpoint

Jennifer A. Gephart , spokeswoman for SAIC, said the company acknowledges a settlement has been reached with the Department of Justice in the amount of $5.75M. She provided a statement from the company on the settlement:

“SAIC disputes the allegations brought in a complaint by DOJ, but agreed to settle to avoid cost of protracted litigation. SAIC was and continues to be fully cooperative with the federal government and transparent in disclosure of information to the DOJ.”

Charles Ferner said he is proud of what his son did to expose fraud.

“If he had kept his mouth shut he probably could have made general,” he said.”When I moved here from New Jersey, I wanted my kids to go to Scranton Prep and be educated by the Jesuits. His actions speak well for that education.”

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