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Post date: January 28 2009

Attorney General Cuomo Sues Military Contractor For Deceptive Practices Over Fort Drum Contract

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (January 28, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the filing of a lawsuit against a Texas-based military contractor and its chief executive officer for luring employees to a job at Fort Drum through false promises and deceit that ultimately left many prematurely unemployed.

Austin, Texas-based M&E Technical Services, Inc. (METs) fraudulently induced more than 100 workers, most from the Watertown region, to work on a military contract adding armor to vehicles used by U.S. troops in combat overseas. At job fairs and through advertisements, the company falsely promised prospective workers long-term employment with benefits while knowing any work would actually only last a few weeks and that no benefits would ever be provided.

“METs used lies and deceit in order to obtain a commitment from employees who were just looking for a better job,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “This company used these workers and then dropped them without fulfilling any of its promises. When any employer promises certain terms of employment in order to attract workers, the employer must stay true to its word.”

Congressman John M. McHugh (NY-Pierrepont Manor), said, “On behalf of the impacted workers, many of whom also contacted my office with their complaints, I extend my sincere appreciation and thanks to the Attorney General for investigating this matter and bringing charges against the contractor. Contracting at Fort Drum has been a boom to the North Country, providing jobs and associated positive economic impact to my constituents. This can only continue if we ensure that contractors play by the rules. In concert with the Attorney General’s action, I have requested the Secretary of the Army investigate this matter to ensure the military has the proper requirements in place to make certain workers are treated fairly.”

The Attorney General’s Office began receiving complaints last September describing a persistent pattern of METs promising 6-months of work and health benefits while knowing the $1.51 million Fort Drum project was a short-term contract meant only to last from Sept. 16 to October 14. Most employees were let go within two weeks of beginning work. According to court documents, METs also sent the employees inconsistent health insurance materials, knowing full well that no health benefits would ever be provided to the workers.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit claims METs was engaged in a pervasive, deliberate practice to promise workers more than was ever expected to be delivered, including 6-months of work and health benefits, in an attempt to have a full workforce as required by its contract. It seeks to require METs to pay full restitution to employees, penalties and costs.

According to complaints received by the Attorney General’s Office, many employees left good-paying jobs to take the position based upon METs’ deceptive claims. Most of the workers were let go from the job within 2 weeks with no health insurance or even promised wages. Additionally, several of the employees’ tools - which METs required them to purchase in order to get the job - were stolen from the job site.

METs President and CEO Michael Donnelly posted a letter on the company’s Website on November 6 acknowledging that the employees were “universally misled” and that the “mission” was “cut short.” However, the Attorney General’s lawsuit claims that METs and Donnelly always knew the “mission” would be for a short duration, and that the promises of restitution in Donnelly’s letter have not been fulfilled.

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General-In-Charge of the Watertown Regional Office Deanna Nelson with assistance from Senior Consumer Representative Carol Lively and Investigator Chad Shelmidine.