Whistleblower: Security firm falsified Georgia training records for guards sent to Afghanistan

GardaWorld employee Justin Fahn has filed a whistleblower lawsuit claiming the firm falsified training records of guards trained in Georgia and sent to Afghanistan. (Pate, Johnson & Church)

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GardaWorld employee Justin Fahn has filed a whistleblower lawsuit claiming the firm falsified training records of guards trained in Georgia and sent to Afghanistan. (Pate, Johnson & Church)

A GardaWorld supervisor alleges that nearly 100 company guards assigned to Afghanistan had not completed training required by the U.S. government.

A whistleblower alleges that an international security firm with ties to Georgia defrauded the federal government and endangered American diplomats abroad when it falsified training records of guards it sent to Afghanistan to protect the U.S. Embassy and other facilities, according to federal court records filed in Macon last month.

The case has forced scrutiny on GardaWorld Federal Services and its training program in Middle Georgia where a whistleblower said the fraud was centered. The whistleblower, GardaWorld employee Justin Fahn, is alleging that the company failed to properly train nearly 100 guards that passed through the program in Perry before they were sent on their security assignment to Afghanistan.

GardaWorld’s federal contract required classroom and hands-on instruction, including physical fitness and use of force training, but the company falsified training records and misled the federal government that was paying for the protection, Fahn alleges in an amended complaint to his whistleblower lawsuit.

The alleged fraud “seriously jeopardized the safety of Department of State personnel and assets in Afghanistan,” Fahn said in the lawsuit originally unsealed in September in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. Fahn, a GardaWorld unit support coordinator, discovered the training deficiencies while stationed in Afghanistan, said his Atlanta attorney Jess Johnson. Johnson said Fahn and other GardaWorld personnel were involved in vital security tasks to defend the embassy, including armed patrols and searching for suicide bombers.

“The State Department wasn’t getting what they were paying for,” Johnson said. “The State Department thought they were getting competent guards.”

In a motion to dismiss filed by GardaWorld’s attorneys, the company denies Fahn’s allegations and characterizes them as a repackaging of “minor technical issues of the kind that the government has been aware of for more than a decade.”

The “Complaint has done nothing more than dress up these publicly available allegations in his purported ‘first-hand knowledge’ in an attempt to pass them off as new,” GardaWorld’s response reads.

A GardaWorld spokesperson declined to comment on the case.

“Everyone Knows They’re Doing It”

GardaWorld is a Canadian-based security firm that operates in 35 countries, including the United States, France, Iraq, and Libya, according to its website. The company had federal contracts worth billions to provide protection in dangerous areas overseas, records show.

GardaWorld had roughly 1,000 employees in Afghanistan spread over several locations including the embassy and other military bases, according to the complaint. In November 2019, at least seven people were killed in Kabul when a van packed with explosives blew up as it targeted a GardaWorld armored vehicle, according to Reuters.

Fahn, who worked in the company’s compliance department, alleges that at least 91 employees trained in Georgia failed to complete required classes. Classes missed included training in vehicle searches, use of force, and active shooter response. Another eight did not take a fitness test. The training was required under terms of the contract with the U.S. Department of State.

The “scheme” began in February 2018 and continued up until the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan in August, Fahn alleges.

The training deficiencies were widely known in the company, Fahn alleges. One GardaWorld manager told Fahn that “someone needs to turn the training team guys in for falsifying documents,” adding that “everyone knows they’re doing it,” according to the complaint.

The U.S. Department of Justice has so far declined to join the case, which also names GardaWorld subsidiary Aegis Defense Services. The government reserves the right to intervene in the lawsuit as it makes its way through the courts, according to a court filing by the Justice Department.

Many of GardaWorld’s guards underwent weeks of classroom instruction and practical training at Guardian Centers of Georgia, based in Perry, where GardaWorld has has an office to oversee training for guards before it sent them to Afghanistan, according to the complaint.

The facility is operated by Guardian Centers LLP and is responsible for training state and federal law enforcement, military personnel as well as first responders. The 830-acre campus features a mock subway station, 16 blocks of simulated urban terrain and small arms and explosive ranges. Guardian Centers was not named in the complaint.

While denying allegations, GardaWorld responded in a motion to dismiss that, even if the Fahn’s assertions were true, they “fall far short” of outlining a systematic scheme.

The company said it has “delivered hundreds-of-thousands of hours of training” and administered “tens-of-thousands of fitness examinations.” It added that Fahn’s allegations are based on a few emails identifying employees who completed the training, but had simply not signed the sign-in sheet. The company in its response to the suit said its safety record during the conflict in Afghanistan was “impeccable.”

“In a war that resulted in the death or injury of nearly 25,000 U.S. service men and women, GardaWorld’s private security personnel ensured the safety and security of all U.S. diplomatic personnel without the loss of a single American life on its watch,” the company said court papers.