OIG: Office of Inspector General
   Current Section

Investigative Report

U.S. Department of Justice

Jeffrey A. Taylor
United States Attorney for the
District of Columbia


Judiciary Center
555 4th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

For Information Contact Public Affairs
Channing Phillips (202) 514-6933

United States Reaches $255,000 Settlement with Avaya Communications Inc. Concerning its Potential Liability for the Acts of its Former Technician Who Defrauded the U.S. Department of Education

Washington, D.C. — Avaya Communications, Inc., successor to Lucent Technologies, has agreed to pay the United States $255,000 to settle allegations that it was financially liable under the False Claims Act for the actions of its former technician, William Cousin, who defrauded the U.S. Department of Education in the 1990s, U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor and Inspector General for the Department of Education John P. Higgins, Jr. announced today.

Cousin was a participant in a wide-ranging scheme to defraud the Department of Education. On December 4, 2000, Cousin pled guilty to one count of 18 U.S.C. § 641 (Theft of Government Property) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia before the Honorable Emmett G. Sullivan.

The settlement is a result of the United States' contention that Avaya is liable for Cousin's participation in a scheme through which the Department of Education was defrauded of more than $1,000,000. Avaya has denied liability. A previous settlement with the prime contractor, Verizon Federal, Inc. (formerly Bell Atlantic Federal Systems), for two million dollars was reached in February 2002.

According to the government's evidence, Cousin was a technician employed by Lucent (now Avaya) who was assigned full-time to the Department of Education to install telephone systems. Any hours, including overtime and holiday hours, that he claimed to work for the Department of Education were billed to and paid for by the Department of Education. Sometime in the 1990s and continuing up until December 9, 1999, Cousin began to claim that he was working far more overtime hours than he had actually worked, at least ten hours a week over several years. In addition to adding hundreds of unworked hours to his time sheets, the evidence further showed that the technician also was involved in a scheme with Elizabeth Mellen, a Department of Education telecommunications specialist who served as the Contracting Officer's Technical Representative for the Bell Atlantic contract.

As a result of this fraudulent scheme, the Department of Education was charged for over $159,000 of false overtime charges. The United States' claims against Avaya were based on the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729, which provides for civil penalties of up to $11,000 per claim and treble damages (i.e., three times the amount of the government's loss).

In announcing the settlement, U.S. Attorney Taylor and Inspector General Higgins commended members of the Department of Education's Office of Inspector General and Office of the General Counsel. In particular, they praised the outstanding investigative efforts and assistance of OIG Special Agents Brian Hickey and John Hendrickson, OIG attorney Howard Sorensen, and Office of the General Counsel Attorney Gail Baum. In addition, they commended Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurie Weinstein who coordinated the civil investigation and settlement discussions.

Print this page Printable view Send this page Share this page
Last Modified: 10/23/2006