Laramie manufacturer Tungsten Parts Wyoming plans to file a lawsuit this week against seven former employees who, in December, filed a lawsuit of their own against the company, accusing TPW chairman Joseph Sery of defamation and wrongful termination.
“We are going to deny all those things and bring proof that all those things they said is incorrect, not truthful, simply invalid, and all lies,” Sery told the Laramie Boomerang during an interview at TPW headquarters Monday morning.
He said those ex-employees will now be sued “in the next few days” for theft of company property and breach of contract for violating confidentiality agreements.
Sery said the employees stole drawings, documents, computers and samples of products.
The company will sue six of those employees for $5 million each, Sery said, while Dennis Omanoff, whom Sery described as “the instigator” of the group, will be sued for $10 million.
Omanoff briefly served as executive vice president, and then briefly as CEO, at Tungsten in 2019.
“They’re all following him. He’s the leader,” Sery said. “They have been just constantly trying to cause damage by going around to various institutions and customers and spreading false information. … In the past, they have tried a hostile takeover, which failed.”
Sery said there will also be a counterclaim for the defamation suit. He declined to name the law firm handling the company’s claim.
In the lawsuit filed by Omanoff and other former employees, Sery was accused of violating the U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations, administered by the U.S. Department of State, despite the repeated protests from employees.
The lawsuit claims that Joseph Sery’s brother, Dror, works as a consultant for Tungsten in violation of the Code of Federal Regulations’ partial ban “foreign individuals” handling technical data of military parts.
According to the lawsuit, Dror Sery is Israeli and does not have a green card.
Sery adamantly denied that allegation and said Dror Sery is licensed to handle military parts.
“He has a license. We have it. It’s in writing,” Joseph Sery said. “(The plaintiffs) asked me to show it to them and I said ‘I don’t need to show. You don’t need to see.’”
Despite being repeatedly pressed by his employees to show evidence of Dror Sery’s licensure, Joseph Sery said he refused to entertain that request as “a matter of principle.”
“It was a matter of trust,” Joseph Sery said. “If I tell you ‘it is OK, it’s OK.’ I’m the boss, I’m the owner. I don’t have to please your needs.”
Sery also denied creating a hostile working environment.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “This company has got benefits like no other company has. We treat our employees with utmost respect and we value each and every one. … This company is a pleasure to work in.”
The initial lawsuit said that Joseph Sery’s propensity for buying outdated or non-functionary equipment sometimes prevented the company from filling its contracts on time.
“When I run companies … I like to buy, whenever it is appropriate, used equipment,” he said. “And if the people that I give it to aren’t able to make it work, shame on them. Not on me. Because I can get that equipment running with other people. … It’s my company, it’s my style of operation, and I buy used equipment. And if you can not make it work, you are at fault.”
The fact that the equipment is now working, Sery said, is evidence that the people, not the machines, were the problem.
“They’re producing now and making millions of dollars a week,” he said. “It’s the same equipment. It is the people that operated it and the management that made it not work because they wanted a hostile takeover. It was all part of the plan. Some of them followed Dennis because probably he offered them money.”
Sery said relationships with the former employees soured when Sery decided to hire J.P. Batache in June as CEO of TPW’s sister company, Tungsten Heavy Powder and Parts.
“Dennis didn’t want a management style that I forced on him,” Sery said. “He was against it from the word ‘go.’ He wanted to be the one man who controlled everything. … Well guess what, J.P. has proven to be the best thing this company ever had. He’s an outstanding manager and outstanding employee. He brought this company back into profit in three months after employment.”
In their lawsuit, the former employees also accused the company of misleading its customers into believing that all its products are made in the U.S. while actually selling them foreign-made products.
Sery said that isn’t true.
“Every imported part was told to the customer, and we got approval for every single part. It’s not something that we hide. Why would we?” he said.
As well as accusing Dror Sery of violating ITAR rules, the former employees have said the company sent restricted data to foreign entities.
Originally based in San Diego, Tungsten was recruited by the Wyoming Business Council to move to Laramie.
After substantial work by both local and state officials, Sery relocated the company to Laramie and began manufacturing here in 2017.
The state provided a $3 million grant for the construction of Tungsten’s building that was completed in 2016.
Tungsten’s website boasts that “all these jobs have been brought back from China.”
“The just proves how much the company takes pride in American workmanship, and how much it values goods that are ‘Made in the USA,’” the website says.
Tungsten’s clients include major aerospace and defense companies, including Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, and Northrup Grumman.
The allegations against Tungsten come amid recent concern of defense contractors fraudulently filling Department of Defense contracts using foreign manufacturers.
In November, the U.S. Government Accountability Office published a study after reviewing 32 cases that indicated that foreign manufacturers have been obtaining DOD contracts by using U.S.-based shell companies.
“For example, one case involved an ineligible foreign manufacturer that illegally exported sensitive military data and provided defective and nonconforming parts that led to the grounding of at least 47 fight aircraft,” the GAO stated.