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18,000 boots at center of Va. legal battle

Sunday - 4/29/2012, 2:58pm  ET

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) - A military gear contractor and a Washington, D.C., nonprofit are suing each other over 18,000 pairs of boots that were part of a State Department contract for African troops fighting al-Quaida-linked militants in Somalia.

The dueling lawsuits center on boots supplied by Atlantic Diving Supply Inc. under a $1.4 million deal with Bancroft Global Development, according to The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk.

Atlantic Diving Supply, or ADS, filed a lawsuit in February 2011 in Virginia Beach Circuit Court seeking more than $1 million from Bancroft. The lawsuit alleges the nonprofit ordered and accepted the 18,000 pairs of boots, plus thousands of field jackets, battle-dress uniforms, T-shirts and pistol belts, but paid for only half of the order.

ADS accuses Bancroft of breach-of-contract and "conversion" _ essentially holding on to goods it rejected.

The company's attorney, Adam Casagrande, calls the action a "collection matter. They owed us money; we sued them to get it."

Bancroft has countersued for $1.1 million. It alleges the supplier knew Bancroft was relying on it to provide military-specification boots, but instead "worked on the cheap" and provided 18,000 pairs of fake military boots.

"The boots that ADS supplied to Bancroft were akin to costume boots never intended for daily use, much less military training," Bancroft stated in its lawsuit.

Two years after the footwear was purchased, most of the boots remain in storage in Uganda.

Bancroft states that it teamed with African Skies Ltd., a Ugandan company acting as a subcontractor to DynCorp International LLC, which had won part of a State Department African peacekeeping contract. DynCorp issued a purchase order to African Skies requiring, in part, 18,000 pairs of "Black Mil Spec Boots" to assist the Somali Transitional Federal Government.

The order of 18,000 boots was delivered to Entebbe, Uganda, by late May 2010, Bancroft's suit states.

The Chinese-made black Ultra Force 5081 Jungle Boots are sold by Rothco, a New York military-surplus company.

ADS priced the boots at $26 a pair but paid Rothco $12.50 a pair.

"They're the cheapest boot on the shelf," said Larry Friedman, vice president/general manager of M&G Sales Co., a 66-year-old Army-Navy surplus store in Norfolk, where the boots sell for $24.95 a pair.

"I would never advise combat troops to ever wear these copies," Friedman said of the Ultra Force boots, which he sells largely to youth groups and to marching bands.

The Bancroft lawsuit accuses ADS of breach-of-contract and fraud.

ADS counters that Bancroft got what it paid for.

"They came to us, looking for some boots, and they specified a price that they were willing to pay," Casagrande said. Nothing the U.S. military would buy is in that price range, he added.


Information from: The Virginian-Pilot,

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