By Roger Charles
While investigating offers on eBay for the sale of two Dragon Skin body armor vests, DefenseWatch discovered that a congressional staffer had confirmed that there is a DOJ IBA Task Force investigating the Army’s body armor procurement program.
What began as a rather routine inquiry into the commonplace sale of military equipment on the inter-net soon turned into anything but routine.
The timeline starts late on the afternoon (EST) of February 5, when Pinnacle Armor notified DefenseWatch of an eBay advertisement for a Level IV Dragon Skin body armor vest with an asking price of $3500.00. The eBay posting included five pictures.
One photo was a close-up of the label, allowing the serial number and associated information for that specific vest to be easily read. (Editor’s note: all bold font has been added for emphasis.)…
Link to PDF
Murray Neal, President and CEO of Pinnacle Armor, confirmed that this particular vest had been one of 30 purchased by the Army’s PEO-Soldier for the May 2006 First Article Test (FAT) conducted by H.P. White Laboratory under contract from the Army.
He later provided a copy of the itemized listing of all 30 Dragon Skin vests sold to PEO-Soldier for the May 2006 test. Ten "Medium," ten "Large" and ten "X Large" vests were listed The serial number of the last vest of the ten "X Large" vests was 57180, the same as the serial number of the Dragon Skin Level IV listed for sale on eBay.
Pinnacle Armor also provided a copy of an invoice dated May 15, 2006 with the following information.
DFAS ROCK ISLAND-HQ0303
ROCK ISLAND, IL 61299
H.P. WHITE LABORATORY, INC.
ATTN: KARL MASTERS
3114 SCARBORO ROAD
STREET, MD 21154-1922
(M/F: CONTRACT: W91CRB-06-P-0041)
The invoice listed the 30 Dragon Skin Level IV vests by size with the serial numbers — "Medium," "Large," and "Extra Large." For the Extra Large vests, the Serial Numbers were listed as "57171-57180."
Included with the invoice was "Air Waybill # 1108473," with a delivery manifest showing that the ubiquitous "Karl A. Masters" signed for the delivery of the 30 Dragon Skin vests at 1145 on May 17, 2006.
(Mr. Masters is the notorious testing director for PEO-Soldier, or was. There’s now some confusion as to what exactly his position is within PEO-Soldier. One East Coast industry source thinks Masters is being positioned to a fall guy for the ongoing criminal investigation currently swirling around the Army’s body armor program.)
The seller’s eBay posting stated that a Dragon Skin Level IV vest, Serial Number 57180, was located in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania — less than an hour’s drive from H.P. White Laboratory and the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground. The listed shipping charge was $80.00 for UPS Ground.
Here’s the identifying information copied from the eBay web page when first visited by DefenseWatch:
eBay (item 250213235123 end time Feb-08-08 09:24:08 PST).
Here is the Full Size listing In PDF form of the entire eBay posting.
When DefenseWatch first visited the e-bay posting late on Tuesday afternoon (EST), only one bid had been submitted for the Dragon Skin vest.
At the request of Mr. Neal, DefenseWatch allowed Pinnacle Armor some time to inquire how this government-owned equipment came to be offered for sale to the general public since their contract with the Army stipulated that all vests not retained for post-testing analysis and archival storage were to be destroyed.
Early on Wednesday morning, DefenseWatch again checked eBay for Dragon Skin items and noted another item, a Level III Dragon Skin, was also posted with as eBay Item number 250211051073. This vest also had five pictures posted, and as with the Level IV vest, one photo was a close-up of the label clearly showing the serial number, 52924.
Pinnacle Armor later provided a copy of a billing invoice, dated "3-18-05," and addressed to:
US Army Contracting Agency
DEFENSE FINANCE & ACCOUNTING
8899 East 56th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46249
The invoice listed 12 vests, all size large, Level "3," by serial number. The first item listed Serial Number 52924, the same serial number as listed for the Dragon Skin Level III vest on eBay.
Mr. Neal informed DefenseWatch that the Army Criminal Investigation Command (still referred to by its traditional acronym, "CID") had placed this order of 12 Dragon Skin Level III vests. The invoice listed as the "SHIP TO" address the following:
PR701ST MP HHD GRUP CID SPBSR
Arlene Jones (703-806-0474)
USACIDC Building 1465
6010 6th Street
Fort Belvoir , VA 22060-5586
On Wednesday, DefenseWatch made another visit to the eBay advertisement for the Level IV Dragon Skin, noting that at this time six bids had then been submitted for this vest.
By Thursday morning (EST), eBay had been made aware of the questionable ownership of the Level IV Dragon Skin vest, and had taken down this advertisement.
The Level III vest was still posted as for sale. DefenseWatch noted that the same seller, "wcpivgti," was listed for the Level III as had been listed for the Level IV Dragon Skin, and that Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, was the listed as the location of the vest being sold.
The above data was sufficient to trigger a criminal investigation into the probable theft of US Government property. Other criminal violations may well be involved, including violations of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) which impose serious penalties for the sale or transfer of restricted/sensitive defense technology without proper authorization.
DefenseWatch has learned that congressional staffers obtained this same information and queried the Army for an explanation. Here is what Jesse Tolleson, a "professional staffer" on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) wrote of the Army response:
"I saw this last week and engaged the Army immediately. Here is the Army’s official response to the ebay issue:
PEO Soldier has accounted for all the test articles they purchased from Pinnacle prior to the 2006 test. There are no problems with the chain of custody for any test articles from that test. This is the second "posting" on eBay in the past few weeks.
This particular item (with the associated pictures mentioned below) has a date of manufacture of June 2006 printed on the label. It is interesting to us that the date of manufacture for this "test" article is after the completion of the test.
PEO Soldier periodically checks these type sales sites to see if body armor (or parts of IBA) is being illegally sold. They, as is the case with this situation, refer all these matters to DOJ for criminal investigation.
"With respect to the 30 test articles, the Army stated that the GAO fraud division impounded some, some are at environmental test centers, and the shot systems are in secure storage. I tried accessing the link myself and the vest in question has now been removed by EBAY. [Editor's note: The GAO took possession of the Dragon Skin vests cited by Tolleson after GAO become aware of the eBay posting on a Level IV Dragon Skin vest, not as he implies before the eBay posting. Fraud may be the least of PEO-Soldiers problems. Attempts are ongoing to ascertain exactly how many of the 30 test vests are and are not in US Government custody.]
"I’m currently working with my Senate counterpart to determine a way forward. Possible actions could be to refer the matter to DOJ IBA Task Force, have the Army visibly account for each test article via picture etc. You can see the Army disputes the allegation and has indicated manufacture date of June 2006."
The above comment by Tolleson was the first confirmation that a DOJ task force was active, and that it was titled the DOJ IBA Task Force!
As incredible as it may seem, the Army responded that the date of manufacture on the label of the Level IV Dragon Skin vest — yes, this same label shown in the pdf photograph above — was June 2006. This bold and brazen denial of the date so obviously shown on the label is simply inexplicable.
But, for Tolleson a blatant lie by the Army is to be accepted as gospel truth, regardless of contradictory evidence such as photographs, invoices, etc. (The information from Pinnacle Armor was available for Tolleson, but DefenseWatch has not confirmed that he reviewed the information.) (See this DefenseWatch article for a previous description of Tolleson’s being little more than a hand puppet for the Army acquisition mafia. 04-11-2006 HASC Staffers’ Mission — Damn the Lies, Kill Dragon Skin at All Costs)
Not satisfied with this audacious mendacity, the Army then compounded their lie by claims Tolleson provided to other congressional staffers that all Pinnacle Armor products purchased for the May 2006 FAT at H.P. White Lab were accounted for. Thus, it was impossible for such an item to be posted for sale on eBay… it just simply could not be a Dragon Skin vest from the lot of 30 vests procured by the Army for the May 2006 test, according to the Army.
Initial indications are that the eBay seller(s) of the Dragon Skin vests may have been unaware of the true nature of these items — US Government property, and restricted/sensitive defense technology. We will update our readers as significant new information becomes available.
Editor’s note: DefensWatch has identified the purported seller who posted the eBay notices cited above, but given the serious nature of the issues at hand, until official investigations have named the individual, or individuals, involved, we will not release this name.
DefenseWatch Editor Roger Charles is an Annapolis graduate, a retired USMC Lt. Col. who commanded an infantry platoon in I Corps during the Vietnam War, a winner of the prestigious Peabody Award for news coverage, and a protégée’s of the late Col. David H. Hackworth. Rog can be contacted at [email protected] Please send comments to [email protected]