WASHINGTON - A pair of military subcontractors from Florida sold expired body armor that could not protect from bullets as advertised to the government, according to an indictment in federal court.
Dan Lounsbury Jr., 49, and Andres Lopez-Munoz, 34, appeared Friday in federal court in suburban Alexandria, Virginia, on charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the government and false claims. Both defendants pleaded not guilty.
The amount of money involved in the contract is a mere $3,500 dollars, and the alleged fraud took place six years ago. But prosecutor Grace Hill argued in court Friday that the switch "could have resulted in serious bodily injury or death."
Prosecutors would not identify the government agency that got the body armor, and no details are offered in the indictment about where and how it was used.
Lounsbury and Lopez-Munoz's Tactical Products Group, headquartered in Boynton Beach, Florida, was a subcontractor working for the company Triple Canopy to supply body armor.
According to the indictment, after ordering certain body-armor plates the government became aware that they had the potential to "delaminate," meaning the layers would separate in a way that compromised their effectiveness. So the government asked for a different brand and product.
Instead of buying the new armor, prosecutors say, Lopez-Munoz directed their staff to "make the 'plate stickers' match the requested specifications" - putting false labels on the cheaper plates deemed unsatisfactory. Four of the 10 plates sent were six years out of warranty and weren't designed to stop steel-core, armor-piercing bullets when worn alone, according to the indictment.
"Mr. Lopez-Munoz is innocent of these charges, and we look forward to confronting the government allegations at trial," defense attorney Stuart Sears said after the hearing.
In a statement, Lounsbury's attorneys also declared their client's innocence.
"Dan has dedicated much of his professional life to serving our nation - both in uniform and in other government positions - and would never allow his company to sell a product he believed was unsafe," lawyers Tim Belevetz and John Brownlee said. "He will vigorously defend himself against these charges and looks forward to his full exoneration."
If convicted, both face up to 20 years in prison.
Court documents show that an employee from Triple Canopy told Tactical Products Group, "Please note this is for our [unnamed agency] client, so there are NO SUBSTITUTIONS ALLOWED."
Triple Canopy recently agreed in the same federal court to pay $2.6 million after being accused of hiring unqualified guards to protect U.S. personnel in Iraq. The State Department has recently blamed the contractor for the lack of emergency pain medication at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
A spokesperson for Triple Canopy declined to comment on the suit.