More than $11 million the federal government recovered from a recent False Claims Act settlement with a bulletproof fabric manufacturer will be re-invested into purchasing new bulletproof vests for law enforcement officers, the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) said.

The funds come from a $66 million recovery stemming from a whistleblower’s False Claims Act lawsuit that exposed deficiencies in the Zylon fiber used in bulletproof vests.

In March, the Justice Department announced the $66 million settlement with Toyobo, a Japanese corporation that produces the Zylon fiber used in bulletproof vests. The whistleblower, a former law enforcement officer, alleged that the bulletproof fiber rapidly degraded in normal heat and humidity, rendering more than half of vests with the fabric unfit for use.

The whistleblower’s allegations spawned a broader investigation of the bulletproof vest industry, prompting federal prosecutors to take multiple other enforcement actions.

According to the DOJ, $11 million of the recovered funds will go toward the purchasing of about 18,700 additional bullet-resistant vests for law enforcement officers, provided under the Bulletproof Vest Partnership (BVP) program. The federally subsidized program helps state, local, and tribal governments equip their law enforcement officers with bullet-resistant vests.

Since 2007, the body armor industry has paid the U.S. government more than $132 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations that manufacturers knowingly produced and sold defective bulletproof vests containing Toyobo’s Zylon fiber. The settlement with Toyobo was the most recent and largest recovery to date.

“Marketing faulty protective gear to law enforcement officers who put themselves in the line of fire is an unconscionable act and a betrayal of trust” said Jon Adler, director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, which administers the BVP program.

According to the Justice Department, BVP funds may be used to purchase only vests that meet the minimum performance standards established by federal ballistic resistance standards. Any vests that fail to meet those standards put the lives of law enforcement officers who use them in jeopardy.

According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police/DuPont Kevlar Survivors’ Club, since 1987 there have been more than 3,000 recorded cases where individuals working in law enforcement have survived both ballistic and non-ballistic incidents because they were wearing body armor.

Federal testing of bulletproof vests prompted by the original False Claims Act allegations found that vests made Zylon fiber failed to stop a bullet six out of every 10 tests.

Whistleblowers are the key to exposing corporate wrongdoing and government fraud. Someone who has first-hand knowledge of fraud or other wrongdoing may have a whistleblower case. Before you report suspected fraud or other wrongdoing – before you “blow the whistle” – it is important to make sure you have a valid claim and that you are prepared for what lies ahead. Beasley Allen has a talented team of attorneys dedicated to pursuing whistleblower cases. We would like to meet with you confidentially to review your potential whistleblower claim.

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