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Federal agents raid University Loft headquarters

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Federal agents on Tuesday raided the headquarters of University Loft in Hancock County, spending hours at the contract-furniture maker seizing records.

Agencies involved included the Department of Defense, the Air Force, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The agents were executing a sealed search warrant, said Mary Bippus, spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Tim Morrison. She would not disclose the contents of the warrant.

No arrests were made, Bippus said.

The company last year was awarded a multi-million-dollar contract to supply metal furniture for the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune base in North Carolina.

CEO James Jannetides was not immediately available for comment.

In a written statement issued Tuesday, University Loft said: “Our company was approached by federal agents with a search warrant seeking business records. The government did not reveal to us the object of their search, but we are cooperating with them in every way requested and will continue to do so. University Loft is confident it is in compliance with all applicable laws.”

Jannetides founded University Loft in 1986. Four years ago, it built a $22 million, 508,000-square-foot headquarters in the Hancock County town of Mount Comfort.

It’s not clear how many employees the company has in Mount Comfort. University Loft added 30 workers last year to fulfill the Marine contract.

This is not the first time University Loft has been investigated by the federal government. A year ago, the company agreed to pay $400,000 following an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department alleging the company violated trade agreements. The Justice Department said the settlement resolved allegations that the company knowingly sold Malaysian-made furniture to government agencies, which violated the Trade Agreements Act.

To strengthen government trade policy, the act sets requirements for the country of origin selling products to the United States. University Loft failed to comply with the rules under contracts it received from the General Services Administration that allowed it to sell to the military and other government entities, the Justice Department said.

University Loft issued a prepared statement at the time saying it "disputed the claims and concluded that it had at all times acted in good faith and engaged in no wrongdoing." However, the company said it "determined that it was more cost-effective to settle the case than litigate it."

The settlement followed a federal investigation of alleged false claims and contract fraud against University Loft brought in a lawsuit by California competitor Furniture by Thurston Inc. Furniture by Thurston received a $66,000 share of the recovery.

Under the False Claims Act, private citizens can bring a lawsuit on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery obtained by the government.

The case was investigated as part of the National Procurement Fraud Initiative. The government formed the National Procurement Fraud Task Force in 2006 to promote the early detection and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with the increase in government contracting activity, particularly for national security programs.

In its statement, University Loft said the primary issue in the case was whether it was permitted under the Trade Agreements Act to ship furniture directly from Malaysia to overseas U.S. military bases. The company said government contracting officials authorized and requested such shipments to save shipping costs. However, the Justice Departments said the practice violated the trade act even if it was requested by government officials.


 

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  • disastro
    Terrible company to work for, Terribly designed products and unappealing in today's market. I was in Supervision here for a couple years, pay was descent, with absolutely no benefits or holiday pay, nothing. Worst HR department I have ever seen, claim to promote from within. When I applied for jobs I was qualified for they tell me "we are not filling these positions at this time" two weeks later they hire the plant managers kin for the position. Very corrupt, applied for another position I was qualified for after 1 1/2 yrs of working there and they give the job to another supervisor who had been there 6 months because he and the plant manager were both in the military. I respect veterans however people who have experience & went to college should not be stepped on because your a veteran. Don't even get me started on the owner what a gaudy a*******, he couldn't even remember my name. Had his boats and ridiculous vehicles everywhere, and cameras everywhere so he can watch you from his home in FL or his vacation home, hey buddy if you have to micro manage that much your doing something wrong. Your willing to put new graphics on one of your 5 stupid boats and strut that shit around, but you can't pay vacation/holiday pay for 8 days during Christmas/new year when people need rent and food for their children what a putz. Your plant manager is driving that place into the ground. Good luck if you have to travel for them your get the short end of everything. management, IT & maintenance are horrid but really nice people blah. BE AWARE respect & moral business ethics are lost here and this company has been swallowed by greed and devious practices.
  • support
    The James Jannetides I knew was knowledgeable, reliable, honest and an excellent vendor and respondent to customer needs. In my opinion complaints by competitors would be dishonest and untrue.
  • Former customer (Tulane)
    University Loft provides an excellent product and supports it and provides repair assistance without question. In my experience they were competitive and very dependable.
  • Tell us your Names
    We at loft would be happy to fix any problems you may have had in shipping. We do not control the trucks but understand damage can happen to be fair you should know that before you blame a company for fright dames a do a negatice post.
    • Over priced products
      We used this company a few times and received damaged products each time. Way over priced compared to other companies, a big hassle trying to get replacements. Very rude people when you call the office, have an I dont want to be bothered with you attitude.
      • quality beds
        I own 3 graduate series beds and this is by far the best quality furniture i own. Maybe i am mistaken, but this article seems to show the company was sued for saving the government money and shipping directly from Malaysia... Maybe trade agreements should be revised to prevent unnecessary spending. A tany rate my only complaint about this company is i bought my beds years ago with intentions to get the lindy loft kit later and now they don't sell the kit so i can make 2 beds into an L loft like they used to advertise. They still have it available for other bed series though,frustrating
      • Quality
        U Loft has the best equipment in the market, we have always been satisfied and pleased with our products.
      • Wonderful
        They have the absolute best product on the market, from what I have leaned this was bascially nothing.
      • ???
        is it safe to buy from this company?
      • ibj article
        did you see this?
      • Jim
        JIM

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      1. Those of you yelling to deport them all should at least understand that the law allows minors (if not from a bordering country) to argue for asylum. If you don't like the law, you can petition Congress to change it. But you can't blindly scream that they all need to be deported now, unless you want your government to just decide which laws to follow and which to ignore.

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      3. Illegal aliens. Not undocumented workers (too young anyway). I note that this article never uses the word illegal and calls them immigrants. Being married to a naturalized citizen, these people are criminals and need to be deported as soon as humanly possible. The border needs to be closed NOW.

      4. Send them back NOW.

      5. deport now

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