Criminal investigators from the Department of Defense searched the offices of an Ellicott City manufacturer of defense supplies early yesterday, but federal officials refused to comment on the investigation.
The agents entered the offices of C. R. Daniels Inc. in the 3400 block of Ellicott Center Drive about 9 a.m. They were wearing blue windbreakers and identified themselves as special agents of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, an arm of the inspector general's office in the Department of Defense.
An employee of the Daniels company, who asked not to be identified, said the agents "came in screaming, 'Everybody drop what you're doing; we've got a search warrant. Don't touch anything. Get away from your computers.' "
The company's 200 employees were rounded up and sequestered in a company cafeteria while agents interviewed workers involved in defense contracts with the federal government, the employee said.
Federal contracts held by the company, a longtime defense supplier, have included one to make laundry bags for the Army. The company also handled a Department of Defense request for at least 8,200 body bags during Operation Desert Shield in 1991.
The company's offices were cordoned off yesterday and labeled as search areas, and computer files were confiscated, the employee said. By noon, most of the employees had been allowed to leave, the employee said.
Michael J. Parker, a special agent in charge of the operation, said he could not comment. He directed calls to Dale B. Kelberman, section chief for white-collar crime in the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore.
Mr. Kelberman said he would not comment on the investigation.
A man inside C. R. Daniels who identified himself as Jack Wood, "an attorney in the law office that is representing the company," said company officials would comment later. He said he did not know when that would be.
When a reporter attempted to interview employees outside the building, Mr. Wood told the reporter to leave or be forcibly removed.
When the reporter refused, Mr. Wood said, "Give us a break. I don't want you talking to the employees of the company. We don't have a comment."