Fraud against the government has always existed – all too often people who are working for or with the federal government see it as an easy target that can be cheated, lied to and overbilled for profit.
This type of illegal activity goes on in many different areas of commerce, including military and defense contracts, Medicare, energy and education. To combat this tremendous drain on the federal coffers, a law was passed in 1986 to encourage individuals – usually employees of those who are doing the defrauding – who are aware of this type of fraud to report it and file a lawsuit for damages on behalf of the government.
This law is entitled the False Claims Act, or FCA – this type of case is also known as a “qui tam” case, because qui tam is a Latin phrase that means that someone is suing on his own behalf as well as on behalf of the ruler. When a person files a False Claims Act lawsuit – also known as a whistleblower lawsuit – on behalf of the government, he not only is suing to protect himself and his fellow taxpayers, but is also eligible to be rewarded for his efforts.
When a judgment or settlement is won by a whistleblower they receive anywhere from fifteen to thirty percent of the money that the government recovers, and this amount can be quite high. Generally speaking, the penalty for defrauding the government is three times the amount of the original fraud, plus anywhere from $5,500 to $11,000 for every false claim that was involved in the suit.
This means that if the government was defrauded in ten separate instances adding up to a $1 million dollar fraud, the recovery would be $3 million, plus up to $110,000 in separate fines. The whistleblower who filed the claim on behalf of the government could receive over a million dollars as a reward for his efforts.
What are some Examples of Fraud against the Government?
A company or individual is defrauding the government, and therefore every American taxpayer, when they charge the government too much for a service that has been provided or piece of equipment that was never delivered or was shoddy or broken, when they bill for services that aren’t provided, when they provide something that is less than what was promised or when they pretend to be something that they are not – for example, representing themselves as a minority vendor when they are not.
Whistleblower lawsuits can also be filed in situations where things are physically being taken from the government, such as when resources from federal lands are removed without being paid for.
What do I do if I know about Fraud against the Government?
If you are aware of fraud that is being perpetrated against the government and you are interested in filing a lawsuit to protect taxpayer money, the most important thing that you can do is to keep the information to yourself and contact an experienced whistleblower attorney immediately.
There are several reasons for this: first, a qui tam lawyer with experience in whistleblower cases will be able to evaluate the case that you are presenting to determine whether or not it is worth pursuing and whether you have enough evidence to proceed.
Second, once the case is determined to be worthy of filing it is important that you get your claim filed as soon as possible – there can only be one filing in a whistleblower case, and the first to file is the one that is allowed to pursue the case. Finally, it is essential that you involve an attorney who will have the resources and know-how to investigate and prepare your case in the fastest, most thorough and most professional way possible.
The more comprehensive your case is, the more likely it is that the government will decide to collaborate on your suit. This will bring more resources and increasing the likelihood that you will win.
Can I get Fired for Filing a Whistleblower Suit against my Employer?
In most cases, whistleblowers are reporting fraud that is perpetrated by their employer, so many people who want to file a whistleblower case are concerned about retribution against them. Companies do not know when a case has been filed against them until charges are actually filed, so during the investigative process, nobody will know of your involvement. Once a case has been filed all records will be available, but it is illegal for your company to fire you or to try to exact revenge.
This is another reason why it is so important for whistleblowers to make sure that they have engaged the services of a strong and experienced whistleblower attorney; they will be able to advise you as to your rights and provide you with all the protections that you are entitled to under the law.
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