Lost in Translation: New Details Emerge in Suit Against Military Translator Company

Photo: Translator Lawsuit Dismissed, But Whistleblower Allowed To Refile: Attorney Says Paul Funk Will File Amended Complaint Against Mission Essential Personnel
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New details of allegations of fraud have emerged against a contracting firm that provides translators to the U.S. Army. The allegations were contained in a revised lawsuit filed in federal court in Virginia by a former manager at the company who claims that his former employer, Mission Essential Personnel (MEP), is sending unqualified translators to Afghanistan.

Paul Funk, who oversaw the screening of Afghan linguists for MEP, had seen his previous complaint against MEP dismissed on September 23rd by Judge Leonie Brinkema for lack of specificity. However, Brinkema dismissed Funk's case without prejudice and gave him leave to refile his suit no later than Oct. 7.

In his amended complaint, Funk provides new specifics to back up his claim that MEP, which holds a contract worth up to $1.4 billion to supply interpreters to the U.S. Army, was giving passing grades on language exams to some applicants who failed to meet the Army's proficiency standards. As a result, Funk alleged in his suit, the Columbus, Ohio-based contractor shipped unqualified linguists overseas to be embedded with American troops.

In the new filing, Funk names dozens of translators who he says were hired after failing proficiency exams and sent to serve alongside American troops. Funk alleges the company knowingly hired unqualified translators because the moment they went on MEP's payroll, the company could then bill the United States government for the costs. Once the translators were "in the pipeline," the lawsuit alleges, "salary and other payments to these individuals would then be reimbursed, with a cost-plus payment, by the United States."

Funk's attorney Kit Pierson told ABC News he will attempt to get court approval to review MEP's internal records to further support Funk's claims.

"Today's amended complaint describes MEP's activities in painstaking detail," Pierson said. "We now plan to subpoena documents from MEP and look forward to a speedy trial."

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In an earlier interview with ABC News, Funk said he had determined that more than one quarter of the translators working alongside American soldiers in Afghanistan failed language proficiency exams but were sent onto the battlefield anyway.

"I determined that someone -- and I didn't know [who] at that time -- was changing the grades from blanks or zeros to passing grades," said Funk. "Many who failed were marked as being passed."

MEP Denies Funk's Claims

MEP has emphatically denied Funk's claims, and executives with the company told ABC News they believe Funk is disgruntled and said he threatened to "wage war on the company" after he "resigned due to financial improprieties in his office." Company officials said the dismissal of Funk's earlier complaint offers ample support to their position that the claims are groundless.

"As expected, the plaintiff has refiled his case against MEP for the third time," MEP spokesman Sean Rushton said in an email to ABC News. "We have not had time to fully review the complaint. We look forward to addressing the allegations in the new complaint in an appropriate manner under the rules of the court."

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