United Airlines Inc. (United), the world’s third largest airline, has agreed to pay over $49 million to end relating to fraud on postal service contracts for transportation of international mail. According to the criminal and civil settlement agreement, United entered into International Commercial Air (ICAIR) contracts with USPS, by which United transported U.S. mail internationally on behalf of USPS. Pursuant to these ICAIR contracts, United was obligated to provide bar code scans of mail receptacles to USPS when United took possession of the mail receptacles and when the receptacles were delivered to the foreign postal administration or other intended recipient. United was entitled to full payment under these ICAIR contracts only if accurate mail scans were provided and mail was timely delivered to the foreign postal administration or intended recipient.Between 2012 and 2015, United engaged in a scheme to defraud USPS by submitting false delivery scan data to make it appear that United and partner airlines with which it worked were complying with the ICAIR requirements, when in fact they were not. Instead of providing USPS accurate delivery scans based on the movement of the mail, United submitted automated delivery scans based on aspirational delivery times. These automated scans did not correspond to the actual movement of the mail, as mandated by the contracts. Because this scan data was not tethered to the actual delivery of mail to the foreign recipients, payment was inappropriate under the ICAIR contracts. Through this data automation scheme, United secured millions of dollars in payments from the USPS to which United was not entitled under the ICAIR contacts.
“United was entrusted by the U.S. Postal Service with fulfilling a critical government function – the transportation of U.S. mail abroad,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Instead of performing this duty with transparency, United defrauded the U.S. Postal Service by providing falsified parcel delivery information over a period of years and accepting millions of dollars of payments to which the company was not entitled. Today’s resolution emphasizes that companies that defraud the government – no matter the context, contract, or federal program – will be held accountable.”
United further admitted that it concealed problems related to scanning and mail movements that, if known, would have subjected United to financial penalties under the ICAIR contracts. Certain individuals at United worked to conceal United’s automation efforts from the USPS, as they knew that the data being transmitted was fabricated. These individuals further knew that the transmission of false data violated the terms of the ICAIR contracts. The attempts to hide the automation practices included efforts to revise the falsified delivery times to make the automated scans appear less suspicious to USPS.
JEFFREY NEWMAN REPRESENTS WHISTLEBLOWERS NATIONWIDE INCLUDING FALSE CLAIMS ACT CASES THAT REVEAL FRAUD ON GOVERNMENT AGENCIES. HE CAN BE REACHED AT JEFFREY.NEWMAN1@GMAIL.COM OR AT 978-880-4758