Navy Yard gunman’s employer has long history in South Florida

Navy Yard shooter, Aaron Alexis, worked for a federal subcontractor in Fort Lauderdale, called The Experts, The Experts corporate headquarters is 2400 East Commercial Boulevard, Suite 420, Fort Lauderdale.
Navy Yard shooter, Aaron Alexis, worked for a federal subcontractor in Fort Lauderdale, called The Experts, The Experts corporate headquarters is 2400 East Commercial Boulevard, Suite 420, Fort Lauderdale.

The Experts, a technology consulting company with a quiet but fruitful 15-year history in South Florida, found itself in the headlines for hiring Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis.

Established in 1998 and headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, The Experts describes itself as a global provider of IT, engineering, telecom and business process support to customers in banking, defense, energy, finance, insurance, manufacturing, transportation and government. “Our technology solutions and services support Fortune 1000 organizations around the world and are deployed alongside our trusted personnel supporting the war fighter abroad and domestic policy at home,” its website says.

The company would not comment for this story.

The Experts, which has offices in 12 states and eight countries, was ranked in the middle of the INC. 5000 list in 2012, with $60.6 million in 2011 revenue and 529 employees worldwide. This year it ranked on the CRN Solution Provider 500 list with $53 million in annual revenue. Its government division is based in the Washington, D.C., area.

Since 2000, the company has been owned and led by CEO Thomas Hoshko, according to Hoshko’s LinkedIn biography. With more than 30 years of experience in the industry, “he is responsible for the rapid growth of The Experts, by developing ... partnerships with the top 10 defense contractors, as well as many of the Fortune 500 and large financial institutions,” his website bio says.

The Experts is also a subcontractor for Hewlett-Packard. According to a reporter for CRN, an industry publication, The Experts announced in June that it would participate in a $3.45 billion IT contract awarded to HP by the Department of the Navy, which would focus on upgrading the Navy’s enterprise network services. HP did not say whether Alexis’ work as a subcontractor for HP granted him access to the Navy Yard, Rob Wright reported for CRN.

Although The Experts is a member of the South Florida Technology Alliance, a large trade organization, SFTA Executive Director Linda Gove and several board members said that the company has not been particularly active in the organization although some members know employees there or have used the company’s services.

The Experts is “definitely a reputable company … they are good people,” said Alex Funkhouser, president of SherlockTech Staffing, a Miami Beach-based technical staffing firm specializing in app development. Funkhouser, whose 40-employee firm sometimes competes with The Experts, added that he has friends who work for the company’s South Florida office who he has known for over a decade. He said he did not know anyone at The Experts northeast office.

“It’s a very sad and disturbing tragedy,” Funkhouser said. “From a staffing perspective, the simple reality is that when we follow every hiring protocol, run background checks and carry out all the due diligence to properly vet contractors, human beings will do what human beings do, and the individual cannot be controlled. All the reference checks, background checks, screening, online profiles … there are many different tools, but ultimately you never know.”

In a statement, The Experts expressed its condolences and said it was fully cooperating with the investigation. “At this time, we can confirm that the suspect had been employed by The Experts for approximately six months over the last year, during which time we enlisted a service to perform two background checks and we confirmed twice through the Department of Defense his secret government clearance. The latest background check and security clearance confirmation were in late June and revealed no issues other than one minor traffic violation,” said the statement issued by FTI Consulting, which is handling the company’s communications in this case.

HP issued a statement, too: “Aaron Alexis was an employee of a company called ‘The Experts,’ a subcontractor to an HP Enterprise Services contract to refresh equipment used on the Navy Marine Corps Intranet network. HP is cooperating fully with law enforcement as requested.”

President Obama and the Department of Defense have already ordered extensive reviews of the security clearance process. And between the investigations and potential legal battles, more will be learned about The Experts.

“This is an unfolding story. We don’t know a lot of facts of what transpired,” said Gregory W. Kehoe, a Greenberg Traurig attorney with more than 30 years of trial experience representing individuals, corporations and financial institutions. “The owner has already pointed fingers at the government and the government will likely say the employer should have done more vetting before taking him on. ... One thing is clear, nobody is generally responsible for the criminal act of another.

“However, in the employment area, an employer has to conduct the appropriate level of diligence when bringing a new hire into the workplace. When you hire someone who is going to be working with a security clearance, both the employer and the U.S. government have a heightened level of diligence when answering this simple question: ‘Who is this guy that we’re hiring?’ ”

Miami Herald correspondent Joseph A. Mann Jr. contributed to this report.

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