The United States Department of Justice, on behalf of the United States Marshals Service, alleged that the company failed to conduct firearms qualification exams and re-certifications for court security officers assigned to guard federal courthouses in the Northern District of California, which includes San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.
Based in Espanola, New Mexico, Akal Security is owned by Sikh Dharma International, the religious community founded by Yogi Bhajan in the 1970s.
Although the community kept the outward appearance of Sikhs with the bana of beard and dastaar, a great many of its practices - such as faith-based yoga, idol worship, gem magic, astrology, tarot reading, tantric numerology, and following Yogi Bhajan’s rehit, also known as his “technologies” - contradict the fundamental teachings of the Sikh faith, and has perturbed Sikhs of Indian origin.
Yogi Bhajan died in 2004, leaving behind lucrative for-profit businesses to support his non-profit religious groups. Many of his top executives disposed of their bana and fought his religious leaders in 2007 after Akal Security settled another federal lawsuit for $18 million alleging the company failed to hire enough properly trained security guards. The business leaders claimed lack of funds and cut support to the religious groups while grossly enriching themselves.
“During his lifetime, Yogi Bhajan maintained exclusive central authority over the organizations he created to advance the world view and practices he taught,” said the Oregon judge that presided over the case. “The dispute involves a Russian nesting doll of non-profit and for-profit entities…”
The Oregon state attorney general joined the lawsuit filed by the ousted religious leaders against the board of directors, which controlled the dharma and Akal Security.
The case was decided in April in favor of the religious leaders. The top executives were ordered to return nearly $30 million to the dharma. The board of directors resigned in August, and a new board now governs the empire.
Akal Security was the greatest success story of the yogi’s empire. The company was founded in 1980 with a $1,200 loan. It has received more than $3.3 billion in federal contracts since 2000, according to usaspending.gov. The Marshals Service is its biggest customer, with contracts valuing nearly $2.6 billion since 2000. It is one of the largest providers of security services at federal courthouses across the country.
Under contracts the Marshals Service awarded on Aug. 1, 2004 and March 1, 2011, the firearms qualification test requires that security officers accurately fire a designated number of rounds within strict time limits. Security officers who do not receive a qualifying score may not work as security officers under the contract, a justice department news release states.
The department alleged that from 2007 to 2011 certain Akal Security personnel who administered the test did not apply the time limitations, sometimes out of concern that security officers would not be able to pass a timed test, according to the news release.
The department further alleged that the Akal Security personnel then certified to the Marshals Service that the tests had been conducted appropriately when, in fact, they had not. “Numerous security officers continued to work even though Akal Security had failed to ensure they could pass the required firearms qualification test,” the news release stated.
The settlement did not involve a qui tam, whistleblower suit, said Charles Miller, spokesman for the department. "There is no complaint at issue, and the matter was not litigated."
According to the settlement document obtained by SikhNN, the alleged failure resulted in Akal Security’s submission of false claims to the Marshals Service for compensation for services of those court security offices.
“To avoid the delay, uncertainty, inconvenience and expense of protracted litigation of the above claims,” Akal Security agreed to pay $1,875,000 by electronic funds transfer within five days of the agreement, signed on Sept. 27, the document states. The agreement entitled the government to “recoup from Akal Security any overpayment plus applicable interest and penalties…”
But Akal Security is not finished with its legal woes.
The company the subject of “dozens of legal cases pursued by federal officials, whistle-blowing employees and others with wide-ranging allegations, including many wrongful terminations,” the Associated Press reported on Oct. 8. “The company itself disclosed 134 “pending, or current litigation matters” throughout the country to a Washington D.C. federal court last year.”