The U.S. Justice Department announced that Richard Davis, founder and former CEO and president of Second Chance Body Armor, Inc., has agreed to settle a case brought under the False Claims Act regarding his role in selling defective bulletproof vests made of Zylon to the U.S. government. Mr. Davis agreed to forego his interest in assets worth $1.2 million that the U.S. had frozen, plus pay another $125,000 to the government.
The Michigan-based body armor company sold these Zylon vests to various tribal, state, and local law enforcement agencies throughout the country. The Bulletproof Vest Partnership (PVP) program, which is run by the Department of Justice, then reimbursed all these agencies. Second Chance also sold defective vest to federal agencies through contracts issued by the General Services Administration.
The United States government alleged that these Zylon vests lost their ballistic capability once they were exposed to hot and humid weather. The U.S. government also alleged that Davis knew by 2001 that the company’s Zylon vests were degrading at a “disappointing rate,” as he himself described it.
The U.S. further alleged that, instead of using a $6 million check from Toyobo Co. Ltd., the company producing the defective Zylon fiber, to rectify the problem so the vests wouldn’t degrade, Second Chance kept the funds. Davis and other owners in the company then took steps to sell the company by meeting with investment bankers who could potentially find buyers.
They stopped trying to sell the company in June 2003 after a bullet shot right through a Forest Hills, Pennsylvania police officer’s vest. He had been wearing a Zylon bulletproof vest from Second Chance. In 2004 the company filed for bankruptcy and was ultimately liquidated.
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) subsequently tested the vests made with Zylon. The tests showed that over 50% of used vests were unable to stop the type of bullets they had been previously certified to stop. Interestingly, the vests made by Second Chance were among the worst in terms of performance. The NIJ took all the vests made with Zylon off its compliant products’ list. Zylon is therefore no longer used to make bulletproof vests.
Jesse Panuccio, Acting Associate Attorney General said, “The U.S. Department of Justice will go after anyone who attempts to profit fraudulently off the United States government, especially when it involves life or death situations.” He went on to add, “Bulletproof vests are meant to protect our country’s law enforcement personnel, our brave men and women who risk their lives everyday to protect us. Anyone who produces and sells these types of products must recognize the solemn duty they have to ensure their products can and will do the job.”