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Optics Co. Accused in Army Case

September 29, 1999

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A precision-optics company that makes artillery sights for the Army’s M-1 tank and other weapons systems faked inspection reports and shipped millions of dollars worth of defective parts to the military, according to a lawsuit filed by the government.

``The danger of that is that it might have a detrimental impact on the targeting system of some of the tanks,″ Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Weber said Wednesday.

The defects ``may very well″ cause gunners to miss their targets, Weber said.

The allegations came out of a whistle-blower lawsuit that Bob Basore, the company’s former marketing director, filed under seal in March 1997.

John L. Plummer, 84, and his company were accused along with other Plummer officials of ``a systematic and continuous scheme″ to defraud the government in which defective parts were shipped to the military for 10 years.

Louis Fryman, who represents the company as well as Plummer, wouldn’t comment on the allegations, but said Wednesday the parties were trying to negotiate a settlement.

The federal False Claims Act allows individuals to sue any entity or person believed to be submitting false reimbursement claims to the government and entitles the government to recover damages plus $5,000 to $10,000 in civil penalties for each false claim.

The government has now joined in the case, which was unsealed last week by U.S. District Judge Herbert J. Hutton.

The lawsuit said plant inspectors who complained that products did not meet government specifications were threatened with the loss of their jobs if they didn’t keep quiet.

Plummer had been a vital part of the U.S. war effort in World War II as the Allies struggled to overcome the loss of access to Germany’s precision-optics experts.

Today, Plummer lenses are used in the gunner’s primary sighting system for the M-1 tank and are critical components of the Army’s laser range finders, according to the government complaint.

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