Mayflower Moved Millions Out of the Government's Pockets


 Average 5 out of 5

The Mayflower Moving Company, which has been around since 1927, is America's largest and possibly most well-known shipping company. I caught it stealing from the U.S. government. Here's that story.

moving-truck-fraudIn the late 1990s, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), which provides payment services for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), ran a fraud examination group based in Monterey, Calif., that it called OPERATION MONGOOSE. Because DFAS pays the majority of the bills for DOD at about $1 billion a day, auditing those payments is daunting. We had a team of about 20 highly trained, skilled analysts to work that important task.

When you're dealing with a huge amount of information, data mining is the preferred method for sifting through haystacks for rusty needles. Fraud examiners use software to look for anomalies such as matching numbers, names, locations, etc. and determine relationships between the pieces of information. We were using the Social Security Death Index to check veterans' claims for disability payments, retirement payments and veteran benefits.

We also were matching contractors who were billing the government against the list of contractors who were restricted from doing business with the government (because of international laws, past illegal activities, outstanding bills, etc.). We were running a dozen programs like these at OPERATION MONGOOSE.


Within OPERATION MONGOOSE, I led the small Transportation Fraud Team consisting of a Navy chief (SEAL), a Navy lieutenant commander (logistics man) and two civilian auditors. I'm a CFE with an Air Force background in financial comptrollership. We were looking at vendors that had contracts with the DOD to move materiel and people and to provide transportation services and vehicles to the DOD. One of our successful programs consisted of analyzing moving company invoices for transporting military members' household goods. When we data mined that information, surprising red flags began to pop up. One vendor in particular, Mayflower, had some issues.

We found extraordinary matches in billing amounts in short periods of time, such as $5,437.21 showing up several times in two weeks. The chances of that are 10 times the number of digits in the value. In other words, it was highly unlikely that there were two or three bills of that exact amount out of 100,000 bills in less than a month. When we matched those values to the same names or locations, signal flares accompanied the flaming red flags! When we see a pattern of those recurring numbers coming from one company, it's probably a sign of a billing issue, either through negligence or criminal intent.


Unfortunately, DFAS was to blame for part of the problem. At that time, in the 1990s, DFAS had hundreds of "stove-piped" systems (independent programs that are unaware of the actions of the other systems) for contractors to pay bills. A vendor such as Mayflower would send a bill by snail mail, and DFAS would pay it. However, that same vendor might also send an electronic copy of the same bill on the same day, and another office DFAS would pay it. A week later the vendor would send a reminder “courtesy” bill, and another office would pay that. None of the offices would talk to each other, so Mayflower took advantage of the miscommunication. (DFAS has since corrected the stove-piping problem.)


We constructed spreadsheets that clearly showed page upon page of bills for the same amounts. We found millions of dollars in Mayflower overbillings in just one year. We ran the case through our legal process, and it ended up in a federal court in Washington, D.C., where the judge liked our work. He made the shipping giant repay the DOD the millions they had stolen, levied a large fine on them and prohibited them from bidding on any new government contracts for one year. The defense argued that they were unaware of the overbillings and overpayments. The judge replied that if the Mayflower's accounting system was so messed up that they didn't know they had several millions of dollars in extra payments, then they were in bigger trouble than this one case showed. 

All in all, a win for the taxpayer, for DFAS and for OPERATION MONGOOSE!

Robert "Trim" Blair, CFE, CGFM, CICA, is a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and an ACFE Regent Emeritus. He was the chief investigator for the inspector general under Gen. David Petraeus at U.S. Central Command and was the senior Air Force representative for non-criminal investigations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and the rest of the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility in Southwest Asia. 
The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners assumes sole copyright of any article published on or ACFE follows a policy of exclusive publication. Permission of the publisher is required before an article can be copied or reproduced. Requests for reprinting an article in any form must be emailed to



  You must be logged in to leave a comment...
  • Avatar

    Thanks for the nice info. I really liked your post. Keep posting like this.

  • Avatar

    If you set out to make me think today; mission accomplished! I really like your writing style and how you express your ideas. Thank you.
    Xarelto Complications

  • Avatar

    I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article.
    some good electric inserts

  • Avatar

    "If you have a business in Yorkshire and would appreciate extra paying customers, extra sales and greater profits, we would love to carry out SEO for you. Give us chance. We want to make your business more of a success what type of gold to buy

  • Avatar

    Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles.

  • Avatar

    Thank you, I've been seeking for info about this subject matter for ages and yours is the best I have discovered so far
    home warrantys
    american home warranty phone number
    cheap home warranty

  • Avatar

    I am new to weblog and definitely liked this blog site. I have been meaning to write something like this on my website and you have given me an idea.. Codcow

  • Avatar

    We are really grateful for your great information. Thanks for sharing great information that is actually helpful. songs wedding

  • Avatar

    Houston Audio Visual services and rentals, at we know there are plenty of things to worry about when planning a meeting or event, and your audio visual needs shouldn’t be one of them. Whether you need a flawless webcast, full audio visual services, or AV equipment rentals for conferences, meetings, wedding events or private parties in Houston, we are your AV company. We have provided professional AV services throughout the Houston metro area since 2005. We offer the best rates and have a reputation for reliable quality service. Whether your event is Houston inside the loop, The Woodlands, Katy, Sugar Land or Clear Lake, we are your AV company. Looking for a personal rental for a home event? Yes, we have self pickup and self return options for your personal AV rental needs. Low prices, reliable professional service, houston projector rental

  • Avatar

    "Straplan Limited is a leading business management consultancy which helps businesses within a range of different sectors of all sizes. Our ethos is to provide a service much more than just what you would expect from a management consultancy. We incorporate an ‘everything is connected’ policy, this includes management consulting, coaching, training and recruitment. We are here to ensure that your business can streamline its working processes and by working smarter you can achieve greater profits and business growth as a result.
    Our business management consultancy solutions focus on your organisations primary priorities such as:
    • Business sustainability and Growth
    • Profit Maximization
    • Increasing Business Efficiency
    All of our services lead towards at least one of those overriding goals." Bid Writing UK

Add Comment

Text Only 2000 character limit