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Criminal investigation into security firm prompts questions

April 23, 2009 |  5:04 pm

Los Angeles County officials will have plenty of questions to answer when they prepare a report on how a Torrance security firm allegedly skirted state workers' compensation payments while it held millions of dollars in county contracts.

Supervisor Mike Antonovich asked county Chief Executive William T Fujioka earlier this week to review how the county monitors business contractors to ensure that they are making proper payments to the state. 

He also asked how International Services Inc., which is under criminal investigation by the district attorney's office, was able to get contracts without competitive bidding. 

The Times reported Thursday that county officials, including the Board of Supervisors, were warned in a 2005 report by the county auditor-controller that the firm's license had been pulled by New York state after allegations emerged that the company employed 200 unregistered guards, including convicted felons.

The company has been the subject of investigations and enforcement actions by the U.S. Department of Labor dating back to the mid-1990s for alleged violations of federal pay and contract laws, a review of official records showed.

International Services was placed under a federal consent decree in 2001 and, following noncompliance with the order, was barred in July 2005 from doing business with the U.S. government for three years, documents show.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Oakland ended plans to hire the firm to patrol high-crime areas of the city.

Karawia served as a reserve Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy beginning in 2006 before he was removed after he was charged last week with multiple felonies, including workers' compensation fraud. Karawia also served on the Sheriff's Department's Homeland Security Support Unit, which has been disbanded.

-- Andrew Blankstein