WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — A Rhode Island textile manufacturer has agreed to pay the federal government nearly $500,000 after an investigation accused the company of using overseas workers to make woolen blankets for the military instead of with American labor, as required by law.
According to the out-of-court settlement agreement between the company and the U.S. Department of Justice, Woonsocket-based Hyman Brickle & Son, Inc. allegedly sold the blankets to the U.S. Army “despite knowing that the blankets were produced using labor from India, rather than U.S. labor, as federal law requires.”
“Specifically, the United States alleges that in 2016, Brickle utilized labor in India to produce woolen blankets that Brickle then sold to the U.S. Department of Defense as part of a multi-year contract,” wrote Bethany Wong, assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island. “The United States further contends that Brickle thereby submitted false claims for payment for these goods to the U.S. Department of Defense, during the period from January 2016-May 2016.”
The company has agreed to pay $492,236 to the government which represents the cost the military paid for the blankets — $236,118 — plus damages.
An email to Hyman Brickle’s attorney was not immediately returned, but the settlement states the agreement is “neither an admission of liability by Brickle nor a concession by the United States that its claims are not well founded.”
According to Brickle’s website, the company was founded by Hyman Brickle in 1937 who then purchased the Northwest Woolen Mills in Woonsocket in 1978.
“Northwest Woolen Mills, a division of The Brickle Group, has been providing comfort and warmth by manufacturing wool and synthetic blankets for over 68 years,” according to the website. “Our mill in Woonsocket, RI manufactures army blankets and emergency relief blankets, providing humanitarian relief all over the world.”
The company lists 11 government contracts totaling more than $119 million dollars, including for products such as berets, “U.S. Navy gray blanket,” and army face covers.
The 80-year-old Berry Amendment of the False Claims Act requires “that textiles sold to the Department of Defense be produced in the United States, including using United States labor for the production of the textiles,” according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office press release.