Minnesota company never charged with theft of 45 tons of Ground Zero disaster relief supplies

| Fri Jun. 16, 2006 12:47 PM EDT

Following the tragedy of September 11, 2001, Kieger Enterprises of Minnesota sent trucks to a warehouse in Long Island and proceeded to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of donated bottled water, clothes, tools, and generators, which were then moved to Minnesota, where the company planned to sell the items for profit. Dan L'Allier, a Kieger employee, witnessed the trucks being loaded. He and disaster specialist Chris Christopherson told a Kieger executive, who told them to keep quiet about the theft. They then told the FBI.

As a result, the two whistleblowers lost their jobs, received death threats, and were blackballed in the disaster relief industry. They each received $30,000 (after expenses) from the government, their share in a civil suit against Kieger. Some of the company's executives were charged with fraud by the federal government, but the September 11 theft of 45 tons of needed goods was not included in the government's case.

The former U.S. Attorney in Minnesota said it was never his intention to charge Kieger for the theft--that he had referred the September 11 part of the case to New York prosecutors. The government's explanation for excluding the theft was that fraud was at the core of the case and "we didn't need the theft." The whistleblowers say they were never even contacted by New York prosecutors.

However, there is evidence that suggests the government was preparing to bring theft charges against Kieger. That evidence is in the form of a March, 2002 memo from the U.S. Attorney's ofice in Minnesota. However, according to an investigator for the FBI and FEMA, plans to go ahead with the theft charges were curtailed when it was discovered that an FBI agent in Minnesota had stolen a crystal globe from Ground Zero. An investigation then revealed that sixteen government employees, including a top FBI executive and and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, possessed Ground Zero or September 11 Pentagon artifacts.

Jane Turner, the lead FBI agent, says that the FBI attempted to fire her because she brought the stolen artifacts to light. She retired in 2003.

An attorney representing Kieger called the accusation of theft "much ado about nothing," claiming that Kieger employees tooks some water and T-shirts, and that they had permission from FEMA to do so. The FEMA official in charge says that no such permission was given.

Fraud charges against Kieger have not been limited to the September 11 event, but also involve the June, 2000 flood in Eagan, Minnesota and the June 2001 tornado in Siren, Wisconsin.

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