The Department of Defense is conducting an unspecified criminal investigation of the medical imaging equipment business, and the probe may involve Picker International, according to a department letter obtained last week by MODERN HEALTHCARE.
The Aug. 24 letter from the Defense Department's inspector general's office came in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Thomas Quinn, president of Pittsburgh-based Imaging Equipment Services, a competitor of Picker in the imaging equipment maintenance business.
Mr. Quinn and Picker are involved in a seven-year legal battle over the maintenance of Picker computed tomography scanners.
In his request, Mr. Quinn asked for copies of any documents related to a Defense Department investigation or audit of Picker.
In its Aug. 24 letter, the Defense Department's FOIA and Privacy Act Office said it withheld documents pertaining to "an ongoing Defense Hotline inquiry...based upon (a complaint from Mr. Quinn); an ongoing audit project conducted in conjunction with the Defense Hotline Case; and an ongoing (Defense Criminal Investigative Services) criminal investigation." DCIS is an arm of the Defense Department's inspector general's office.
The documents withheld must concern Picker in order to be relevant to Mr. Quinn's request. However, the letter doesn't specify whether the criminal probe targets Picker. It also didn't reveal the nature of the criminal allegations.
A spokesman for the Defense Department's inspector general's office declined to comment on whether the agency was probing Picker.
A Picker spokesman said the Cleveland-based company was "unaware of any ongoing DCIS investigation." He declined to comment further.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department is examining possible "anti-competitive practices in the medical imaging device industry" and has subpoenaed Mr. Quinn's company, IES, for its documents on Picker (July 25, p. 6).
Picker sued IES in 1987 over the hiring of former Picker employees and the use of its maintenance manuals and software. IES countersued in 1989, accusing Picker of antitrust violations. In May, the U.S. District Court in Boston ruled in Picker's favor. IES plans to appeal.