Inquiry Will Clear Arms Supplier, Its President Says
Jan 20, 2007
TAMPA - The president of a Florida arms supplier linked to an investigation of fraudulent business practices said he expects none of the allegations against his company to be substantiated and blamed disgruntled competitors for making false accusations.
Reed Knight, head of Knight's Armament Co. in Titusville, said he was told Friday by a Naval Criminal Investigative Service official that federal agents are examining claims of impropriety related to multimillion dollar contracts for specialized military gear.
But Knight said the official, Lou Lockwood, assured him "there's not anything for me to be particularly concerned about."
In a telephone interview, Knight said he did not ask Lockwood, who made the allegations, for further details.
"I have no idea, and I didn't care," he said. "They've been looking into them, ... and when they get through the investigation, they'll determine if the allegations are accurate or not."
Knight said the conversation with Lockwood is the first contact he's had with agencies involved in the investigation, which began in late 2005. In addition to the NCIS, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the FBI are involved.
Ed Buice, an NCIS spokesman, said he could not comment on the discussion Knight had with Lockwood because the case is ongoing.
Knight said he learned of the inquiry Wednesday when he was contacted by the Tribune. He was disappointed he'd not been told by the investigating agencies.
"If in fact this had any merit or legs to it, the government [should have] come to me and said, 'Hey, this is the situation we've got, and we want to talk to you about it.' That's the type of guy that I am," Knight said.
"I have no reason to believe that there's anything that has any legs to it or ... any traction to the allegations," he added. "I have not heard this from any of my customers."
The inquiry is focused on contracts awarded by the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Ind., with funding from U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base.
The Navy center handles the acquisition of sniper rifles, night vision systems, ammunition and other equipment used by special operations forces.
Knight's is a longtime supplier of assault rifles and other high-tech gear used by U.S. commandos. The company has been in business for 25 years and has about 300 employees.
Knight's has a number of military contracts, including a $23 million deal with Socom for gun sights and a $14.7 million arrangement through the Navy center at Crane for rifle silencers.
Although Knight does not know who contacted authorities, he suspects Phil Seberger, a competitor in Northern California, as one of the sources.
Seberger's company, OPS, also manufactures silencers and complained to his congressman after Knight's won a series of contracts for M4 rifle silencers.
A 2004 audit by the Defense Department inspector general found the government "inappropriately justified" awarding the work to Knight's.
Reed Knight said the silencers were urgently needed by troops in the field and his company was able to provide the equipment quickly.
Seberger did not return a telephone call or an e-mail seeking comment.