Public records available from state and federal courts and from Web site registrations have raised new questions about a company contracted to operate a detention facility in Hardin, as well as a potential supplier of police equipment to the venture.
Local officials have released almost no details on American Police Force, and company representatives have been tight-lipped, leaving everyone from Hardin residents to a New Zealand blogger turning to the Internet for answers.
Separate research efforts by The Billings Gazette and others turned up connections and similarities between the APF Web site and sites for other little-known defense procurement companies.
All of the Web sites share similarities in design, and some include exactly the same phrases, a red flag to Kevin Flaherty, an American blogger living in New Zealand who writes about private military contractors.
Flaherty, owner of the Cryptogon blog, said that plans by APF to provide Hardin with a homeless shelter, computers for schools, free meals for the needy and an animal shelter "read like something out of The Onion," a satirical newspaper.
Flaherty said his online research revealed "a lot of weirdness to chase down."
Public records show that the APF Web site, Americanpolicegroup.com, was first registered on May 15, about two weeks after an effort by the Two Rivers Authority to pursue prisoners from Guantanamo Bay made national headlines.
A section of text on the APF site refers to the company's "U.S. Training Center," and matches word for word text from the Web site for Xe, formerly Blackwater. That company's U.S. Training Center is touted as the largest facility of its kind.
APF representatives have said that their company is a subsidiary of an undisclosed parent corporation founded in 1984. Blackwater was started in 1997.
Public Internet records show that the APF Web site is one of six hosted on a single Web server, including a site for Defense Product Solutions.
Both share the same double-eagle logo, and the same company, Purepoint Design, developed both Web sites. No one answered a call to Purepoint's office in Newport Beach, Calif.
A section of text on the Defense Product Solutions Web site matches word for word text found on Web sites for Allied Defense Systems and Defense Logistic Services, all promising a similarly exhaustive range of military products and services.
Public records for those companies and others with similar Web sites - including Defense Contracting and Consulting, and Worldwide Military Exchange - all show connections to Edward Angelino, a government contractor in Huntington Beach, Calif.
Angelino said that he is not an owner of APF and has had not met with anyone from Hardin, but added that he has been in discussions with APF over the past four months about supplying police and prison gear for use at the Hardin facility.
"Our role is simply, if we land a contract, to provide some supplies to the guards themselves and what they need," he said, adding that there is "nothing concrete, nothing in writing" with APF.
According to documents filed in connection with a civil lawsuit in Superior Court of California in Orange County, Angelino graduated from Al-Roda High School in Kuwait City, Kuwait, and is a U.S. citizen.
Sometimes referred to in court documents by the first name "Emad," Angelino lists on his resume degrees in electrical engineering from California State University, Fresno and engineering management from the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Public government procurement records show that he has serviced tens of millions of dollars in federal contracts, supplying items as varied as sporting goods, turbine parts and police gear.
Angelino said APF is a separate entity, and that the only company he operates, Allied Defense Systems, has been in business since 2005.
He said that he had "no idea" why there are similarities between Web sites for his company and APF.
Angelino is named in state and federal civil lawsuits dating back to 2004, including one dispute stemming from a $17 million contract to provide police gear to U.S. troops and Iraqi police.
Owners of a business that employed Angelino got a temporary restraining order, and later an injunction, barring him from acting on behalf of the company, said Ira Rivin, an Orange County attorney for the plaintiffs.
"Our claim was that Mr. Angelino was attempting to take over the company for himself," Rivin said, adding that the case was settled on the day it was scheduled to go to trial. He did not disclose details of the settlement.
Angelino also was named in a federal civil suit in Kentucky filed by U.S. Cavalry, the distributor of police equipment in that same contract. Company executives declined to comment specifically on that case, which also was settled.
The complaint alleges that the company Angelino had managed failed to honor the terms of a joint venture with U.S. Cavalry, resulting in additional costs and logistical complications.
In answers to both complaints, Angelino states that he was attempting to work with U.S. Cavalry to ensure compliance with an existing contract after his employers failed to follow through on promises to finance the deal.
U.S. Cavalry, a supplier for 35 years of uniforms and other gear for military and law enforcement, was able to successfully complete the contract, said Dennis Garvey, the company's chief operating officer.
Garvey said that a lack of oversight by overwhelmed federal supply-chain workers has created a gold rush to fulfill contracts for homeland security and in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since 9/11, many small companies "became very proficient in tracking out contract opportunities and worrying later about how they were going to fulfill them," Garvey said, adding that many other small contractors are competent and reputable.
"But a lot of small companies, if they run into trouble and get caught not playing by the rules, can close down and open up under another name next week," he said.
"There's a lot of people attracted by all the money being spent, and the normal due diligence done on some contracts is often not as tightly controlled as you would expect," he said.
Contact Ruffin Prevost at email@example.com or 307-527-7250.