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Posts Tagged ‘Wellco’

Former CEO and Executive Management of Defense Contractor, Wellco Enterprises, Inc., Pleads Guilty to $8.1 Million “Made In The USA” Marketing Scheme and Government Contract Fraud

Monday, February 19th, 2018

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. – On February 15, 2018, the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Wellco Enterprises, Inc. (Wellco) and Tactical Holdings Operations, Inc. (Tactical Holdings), Vincent Lee Ferguson, 66, of Knoxville, Tennessee, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.  Wellco’s former Senior Vice President of Sales, Matthew Lee Ferguson, 41, of Geneva, Illinois, and former Director of Marketing and Communications, Kerry Joseph Ferguson, 36, of Houston, Texas, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Wellco’s former Vice President of Government Contracting, Neil Streeter, 55, of Warren, Massachusetts, and former Operations Manager, Stephanie Lynn (Ferguson) Kaemmerer, 45, of Knoxville, Tennessee, pleaded guilty to smuggling goods into the United States.

Sentencing has been set for Vincent Lee Ferguson, Matthew Lee Ferguson, and Kerry Joseph Ferguson for June 6, 2018, before the Honorable J. Ronnie Greer, U.S. District Judge.  Sentencing for Neil Streeter and Stephanie Lynn Kaemmerer is set for June 11, 2018, also before Judge Greer.  Conspiracy to commit wire fraud and smuggling goods into the United States both carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.  Each defendant was released pending sentencing.

According to information on file with the U.S. District Court, Wellco was a leading manufacturer and supplier of military footwear to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and to civilian (commercial) customers for over 70 years.  From 2006 through 2012, DoD alone paid in excess of $138 million to Wellco for the supply of combat boots.  Wellco pioneered and patented the first practical method for molding and attaching a rubber sole to a shoe upper in a single operation.  During the Vietnam War, the U.S. Army adopted Wellco technology for the manufacture of its hot-weather boots for the jungles of Vietnam, a boot that became known as the “Vietnam Boot” or the “jungle boot.”   In May, 2007, in a deal involving approximately $22 million, Wellco was acquired by two investment firms, Golden Gate Private Equity, Inc. and Integrity Brands, Inc.  Wellco became a wholly owned subsidiary of Golden Gate’s portfolio company, Tactical Holdings.

In March 2006, Vincent Lee Ferguson was made President and CEO of Wellco.  At that time, he discussed with Wellco’s Board of Directors, his turnaround plan for the company to increase commercial sales and “aggressively pursue” sales to the U.S. government.  From December 2008 through August 2012, he conspired with his executive team to import military-style boots that were made in China into the United States and then deceptively market and sell those boots to DoD (and other federal departments and agencies), government contractors, and the general public as “Made in the USA” and as compliant with the Berry Amendment and the Trade Agreements Act (TAA).   The Berry Amendment prohibits DoD from buying clothing that is not grown, reprocessed, reused or produced in the United States.  The purpose of the Berry Amendment is to protect the viability of America’s textile and clothing production base.  The TAA provides that the government may acquire only “U.S.-made or designated country end products” and requires government contractors to certify that each “end product” meets applicable requirements.

By December 2008, Wellco was manufacturing certain military boot model uppers and insoles in China.  In order to conceal this fact, the conspirators required the Chinese manufacturing facility to include the American flag and “USA” on labels of certain boot uppers.  After two shipments of these deceptively marked boots were detained and seized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, the conspirators ordered the Chinese facility to stitch tear-away “Made in China” labels in Wellco boot uppers.  After importation, the conspirators instructed Wellco factory workers in Morristown, Tennessee to tear out the “Made in China” tags prior to shipping the boots to government and commercial purchasers.

The defendants marketed and sold these Chinese-made Wellco boots as “Made in the USA.”  They also submitted false certifications to DoD and other federal agencies, and to government contractors that these boots complied with the Berry Amendment and TAA and met certain safety standards, including electrical hazard and blood-borne pathogen protections for U.S. troops.  For example, on August 15, 2012, the defendants submitted a signed “Certificate of Conformance” to a government contractor, representing that Wellco’s boot model S161 was “100% Berry Compliant” and “fully protective against Electrical Hazard,” even though the model was imported from China and not safety tested.  The boots were then supplied to troops stationed at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas.   In total, Wellco sold at least $8.1 million of fraudulent boots.

This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, General Services Administration Office of Inspector General, and Defense Contract Audit Agency.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys David L. Gunn and Timothy C. Harker represented the United States.

This does not involve anyone currently with Wellco or Altama.

LA Police Gear – Wellco E163 USMC RAT Temperate Weather Combat Boots Closeout

Friday, October 24th, 2014

Wellco E163 Boot

LA Police Gear has obtained a run of first quality, Made in the USA Wellco E163 USMC RAT Temperate Weather Combat Boots. Originally produced for a contract that was no longer needed, LAPG is selling them at closeout prices – 81% off MSRP.

In addition to the already low price, Soldier Systems Daily readers can use coupon code SolSysWellco for an additional $5 off, with no limit on the number of pairs purchasable. The coupon expires on 10/24/2014 at midnight PST.

Original Footwear Purchases Wellco and Altama

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

This letter went out last night from Kevin Cole President of Original Footwear (aka Original SWAT) regarding their purchase of Wellco and Altama brands out of Ch 11 Bankruptcy. This is great news as they salvage these brands and institute US production for Original SWAT.

Dear valued customers,

We are pleased to announce that our company, Original Footwear, has purchased the majority of the assets of Tactical Holdings and Operations Inc. as of August 15th, 2014. Most notably we welcome the Wellco and Altama companies—brands with a wealth of history, research, and footwear technology.

These premier footwear brands have served military personnel for generations and will live on next to our already successful and rapidly growing Original S.W.A.T. brand of performance tactical boots. With our fifteen-year record of constantly improving footwear manufacturing techniques and quality assurance, this acquisition is a perfect fit for all involved.

There are many important steps to take, and our journey has just begun. We will face all obstacles head on. As a first priority, we are consolidating manufacturing at our state-of-the-art facility in Morristown, Tennessee, and ramping up USA production.

Our unwavering mission is to create the most reliable military and law enforcement boots on the market, and ensure our availability standards are met. Combining Original S.W.A.T’s consistent quality and value with Wellco and Altama’s unique understanding of military needs, we are confident that the end results will far exceed our customers’ expectations.

Thank you for your time and understanding. Please make note of our new Customer Service information below and feel free to contact us at any time.

Best regards,

Kevin Cole
Original Footwear

Details On The Tactical Holdings Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Last week, Tactical Holdings filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection in Federal Court in Wilmington, DE. The brands under Tactical Holdings include well known FR clothing manufacturer Massif as well as footwear makers Wellco and Altama as well as other companies Tactical Intermediate Holdings Inc, Tactical Holdings Operations Inc, Ro-Search Inc, Mo-Ka Shoe Corp, and Massif Holdings LLC. As you may recall, Ro-Search developed the Panama sole used in the old jungle boot.

Fortunately, they were given permission to use up to $3.5 Million in loans from Wells Fargo to pay vendors in order to keep things going through the process.

At face value this looks pretty scary for these brands but Massif may well come out of this situation stronger than before. While all brands were given until the end of July to find buyers, Massif has already been courted by Sun Capital Partners, who owns Point Blank Solutions, Protective Products Enterprises, Paraclete, Kelty, Sierra Designs, Slumberjack, Ultimate Direction and Royal Robbins. These guys know how to do it. Dow Jones reports that Sun Capital Partners has a $13 Million offer for Massif. As I understand it, Massif will go to auction soon with Sun Capital Partners as keen bidders who wish to nurture the business alongside its other holdings.

In a telephone interview with Noelle Christensen of Massif, she related, “As you know, we’re part of a larger corporate group, including footwear brands Wellco and Altama. The corporation, along with all entities, filed Chapter 11 last week. This court process will divest Massif from Tactical Holdings and Massif will be proceeding with an auction soon, to determine if Sun, or another investor, will be taking ownership.

Massif is a strong company and we’ll remain strong after this process is complete. As mentioned in the court filings, Massif received approval to pay vendors deemed critical during this process, so we can continue to deliver high-performance protective clothing to the warfighter.”

Unfortunately, the outlook isn’t as good for the footwear brands. Declining contracts and an investigation last year into sourcing of footwear has led to layoffs at Wellco. If they can’t find a buyer, DoD contracts will be moved elsewhere.

I would say that assuredly, Tactical Holdings as we know it, will cease to be. Things look promising for Massif who may find a new home alongside other PPE manufacturers. However, considering the crowded tactical footwear market, we are unsure who might go after not one, but two boot makers.

USMC Rugged All Terrain Combat Boot

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Currently, the US Marine Corps issues the Rugged All Terrain (RAT) Combat Boot in both Hot and Temperate Weather variants produced by several manufacturers including Wellco. AFMO currently has a smoking deal on the Hot Weather version of these boots which have become very popular due to their “shark skin” capped toe and heel. They feature a lace to toe upper with nylon sides to help combat the heat paired with a Vibram sole.

Get yours from

Wellco Hybrid Combat Hikers

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Constructed with an upper made from a combination of leather and Kevlar, Wellco’s new Hybrid Hiker also features a sharkskin toe cap and heel counter. The outsole is a custom Vibram design. The Made in USA Hybrid Hiker makes a great alternative to commercial hiking boots having been designed specifically to fulfill the Army’s need for a light mountain boot.

To order visit

Mad Duo Presents: New Wellco Boots Named for Ballistic Surgeons

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

The word sniper is about as over-used as tactical, and in many cases as badly used as the notorious operator. It never ceases to amaze us how many people out there use the word to describe themselves inaccurately, or to embellish certain pieces of gear or whatever. If there is anything more irritating than some mall ninja type knucklehead claiming to be a sniper, it’s got to be having half your head removed by someone who really is (though that is without a doubt a very transient aggravation).

Off topic for a second — why are there so many shooters that will spend eleventy hundred dollars for a top of the line rifle, then pick up some cheap optic to throw on top at Wal-Mart of a flea market? Shouldn’t it be the reverse?

Second to tactical, sniper is the most alarm-raising word we can think of when it comes to a product description. Paint it black, call it tactical and you can charge an extra 10%, right? Same thing in many ways when it comes to sniper. So it is that when we saw the new Wellco Sniper Boot we groaned, and thought…seriously? We try not to judge a dope book by its cover, though, so we’re taking a look at them and—happily—so far so good. (This makes us happy, because after the Belleville Khyber and the OTB Thor TCs, these were the boots we most wanted to try out.)

The boots are made in the manufactory (love that word) they built last year and are available at this point in tan and black. We’ve asked if they’ll make them in the sage green currently inflicted upon Airmen by the powers-that-obfuscate in the Air Force, but no word on it yet. Our guess would be no, given the on-again, off-again, rotational nature of AF uniform regulations but you never know. Stranger things have happened (the adoption of the Defensor Fortis Load Bearing System and ABU itself not least among them). However, we digress. Again.

The Sniper boots (God, we hate calling them that) are completely non-metallic. Instep and ankle are constructed of a rugged material they call SuperFabric® to prevent tearing and resist punctures. They’re 8” high, full lace to the top, breathable nylon side panels and have both moisture wicking materials and drainage vents built into the sides (because wet feet seriously suck, no matter how comfortable the boots are). The insole is the Wellco signature “elite premium” and the sole has cross-treads at the toe and heel for grip. The boot leather is full grain fleshout leather and (this is cool) the toe is shark skin leather.

The abject minions highly motivated handlers who we instructed to test these boots have only had them for a week or so, and they haven’t had the chance to get to the field, but thus far (we’re told) they’ve proven to be surprisingly comfortable to wear (particularly on the range) and are holding up well (especially for such a lightweight boot). We’ll have to advise further after they’ve had more time to abuse the hell out of them test them out properly.

The poseurs and wannabes are vexing, as is the misuse of the term when it comes to merchandising but maybe they had a good reason for it. Maybe the name actually suits the boot somehow, who knows. We do know that beyond a couple size mix-ups Wellco has always made a good product and had great customer service, so we’re pretty confident our initial above average impression. Sizes are 4 through 14 regular, wide sizes available from 7.5 to 11.5.

Great pair of boots despite the potential of a Walter Mitty name, looks like they’ll be a style worth throwing on your poor feet before going over to stomp around in Derkaderkastan. Check ‘em out. (Images courtesy of Wellco Boots and

We’ll close with a bit of sniper trivia. Many, many Americans (rightly) are familiar with Carlos Hathcock. Not too many know who Simo Häyhä was. If you want to read about a truly heroic and dangerous man, look him up. Here’s a hint: he was practically Divine retribution with a modified Mosin-Nagant, and he was from Finland.

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Army Mountain Combat Boot Chosen? Not Yet

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

As reported last month by Kit Up!, the Army is close to making a call on mountain boots. After years of relying on a variety of commercial mountain boots, none were designed specifically for use in combat operations. On Monday, Natick’s contracting team awarded $8.6 Million for a GSA purchase to Danner for Mountain Combat Boots. Does this mean that the Army has made a decision in their quest for a Mountain Combat Boot?

Filling a niche below full leather or plastic shelled mountaineering boots but beefier than standard combat boots, they are intended for troops who find themselves scrambling in rocky terrain. Troops in Afghanistan have been trialling candidate boots from Danner, Belleville, and Wellco and the PEO-Soldier stated that they were close to making a decision.

Another clue pointing to the Danner selection may have also emerged. Although you can’t completely rely on this, photos released Monday of a Soldier clad in OCP (MultiCam) and the latest version of the IOTV also featured the Danner boot.

Photo PEO-Soldier

UPDATE: Although we queried PEO-Soldier on the subject they haven’t commented yet. Hopefully, we will see something on this soon. PEO-Soldier let us know that this purchase was solely to support Rapid Fielding Initiative (RFI) requirements. They went on to inform us that they are still testing and evaluating the candidates. So, as we see it, the war continues to go on and troops still need boots. It’s just that RFI has chosen that those boots come from Danner and not the other candidate vendors. Interesting…