The U.S. Justice Department has intervened in a lawsuit that claims the Houston-based stevedore, Jacintoport International LLC, a division of Seaboard Corp., overcharged for loading food aid cargo.
Jacintoport was awarded a warehousing and logistics contract for the storage and redelivery of humanitarian food aid by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2007.
It is described in the lawsuit as a "key logistics hub in the overseas transportation of United States humanitarian food aid."
The government said the contract contained explicit caps on the rates Jacintoport could charge to load humanitarian food aid onto ships and that between January 2008 and continuing through at least October 2009, Jacintoport regularly exceeded these caps, resulting in inflated charges to the United States in connection with the delivery of more than 50,000 tons of food.
The complaint said the invoices were inflated for not less than $500,000, causing falst claims for services to be submitted to the USAID.
The lawsuit was initiated in a lawsuit filed under whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act by John Raggio, who allegedly received an invoice from Jacintoport that contained the excessive stevedoring charge. Raggio is vice president and chief financial officer of Sealift, Inc., a shipping company based in Oyster Bay, N.Y.
Sealift operates a fleet of 12 ships that regularly transport food aid cargo.
Seaboard is a diversified conglomerate with agricultural, shipping, and power divisions.
The Seaboard Marine division has a fleet of nine owned and about 28 chartered vessels, and provides containerized cargo shipping service to 25 countries between the United States, the Caribbean Basin, and Central and South America.
The False Claims Act imposes treble damages and penalties for the submission of false claims for government money and/or property. Under the Act’s qui tam
provisions, a private citizen such as Raggio, can sue on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery. The United States is permitted to intervene in the lawsuit, as it has done in this case.
The government noted the allegations in the complaint (United States ex. rel. Raggio v. Jacintoport International LLC
Case No. 1:10-cv-01908) are allegations and do not constitute a determination of liability. Seaboard had no comment on the lawsuit. - Chris Dupin