WASHINGTON - Armed guards at a Lockheed Martin Corp. factory escorted a senior government fraud-hunter out the door Thursday after he and two colleagues accused the giant defense contractor of trying to bill the Pentagon for huge overcharges in the building of C-5 Galaxy and C-130 Hercules cargo airplanes, the government employee said yesterday.
Ken Pedeleose, an industrial engineer and nine-year veteran with the federal Defense Contract Management Agency, had accused Lockheed Martin of billing the Air Force $714 for a rivet and $5,217 for a 1-inch-long bracket for the C-5. Each aircraft requires hundreds of the items.
The government-recommended price for the rivet is $53 and $258 for the bracket.
Pedeleose, who was stationed by the agency at Lockheed Martin's plant in Marietta, Ga., was told by his supervisor Thursday to hand over his government credentials that gave him access to the facility and its parking lot, according to both Pedeleose and a spokeswoman for DCMA.
Guards search car
Company guards then searched his vehicle and escorted him to the plant's gate.
"This is harassment and retribution for blowing the whistle," Pedeleose, 42, said in an interview yesterday from his Marietta home.
"They didn't tell me why I was being removed. They just called me in there and the guards carried me to the gate."
"I was told to go home and wait to be contacted by [DCMA] investigators," he said.
Ann Jensis-Dale, a spokeswoman at DCMA's regional office in Boston, denied that Pedeleose was expelled as a reprisal for his charges against Lockheed Martin.
Instead, she said, the action was in direct response to allegations that Pedeleose had physically threatened someone at the facility.
"We took immediate action," she said. "We had reason to believe we were going to have a safety-in-the-workplace issue. For the safety of DCMA employees as well as for Ken, that decision was made" to remove him from the premises."
Pedeleose denied that he had made threats.
Sam Grizzle, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin's aeronautics division, said DCMA officials decided to suspend Pedeleose and then "asked Lockheed Martin security to escort the employee off plant property."
Asked about the overcharge allegations, Grizzle said that "we were made generally aware" of the allegations but that company officials couldn't comment about the specific claims.
DCMA is the Pentagon's front-line defense against contractor fraud.
The agency's engineers and inspectors typically are based at defense contractor facilities to ensure that the Pentagon gets what it's paying for and that costs to government weapons contracts are fair and reasonable.
Jensis-Dale declined to comment about Pedeleose's overcharge allegations against Lockheed Martin, saying that they were under investigation by several Pentagon agencies, including the Pentagon's inspector general and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.
Contacted at his office, Pedeleose's supervisor, Air Force Col. James Wright, also declined to comment on the overcharging allegations against Lockheed Martin or on Pedeleose's expulsion.
Pedeleose and two colleagues outlined their allegations last summer in an inch-thick report entitled a "Technical Report on Criminal Vulnerability and Fraud" in the two aircraft programs.
The other two DCMA inspectors were Henry Hagel, an aerospace engineer and 24-year veteran of the agency, and David Bily, a veteran DCMA contracting officer.
All three maintain that their agency superiors have ignored many of their warnings about overcharges and management problems.
Pedeleose in particular has been coming forward within DCMA with allegations of overcharges against Lockheed Martin since February 2000.