/whistleblower and government fraud lawyer
Certainly, you've heard of people reporting business and contractors who have been defrauding federal and state governments and taxpayers, but what is the legal framework?
What is a "whistleblower?"
Federal and state false claims at laws are civil statutes designed to fight theft of taxpayer dollars. These laws allow private citizens, also known as whistleblowers or "relators," to help combat fraud, waste, and abuse committed against the federal, state or local government by filing a lawsuit on behalf of the government. The suit is called a “qui tam” suit. The laws that empower citizens to pursue these lawsuits date back to the Civil War, where the Union was being defrauded by defense contractors and their nonperformance or under-performance of contracts.
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Who Can File Be A Whistleblower and File a "Qui Tam" Action?
A private citizen who has inside, non-public knowledge and evidence of fraud can blow the whistle and report the fraud. The whistleblower can sue on behalf of the federal, state, or local government. Unlike the ordinary lawsuit, such as trying to recover for injuries in a car wreck, a "qui tam" lawsuit is filed “under seal," which means that the suit will be kept secret from everyone except the government.
What Happens After the "Qui Tam" Suit Filed?
After the lawsuit is filed,the, the government is permitted to investigate the alleged fraud, including requesting documents from the defendant and conducting interviews. The government then decides whether or not it wants to "intervene," meaning step in and take primary responsibility for the suit. If the government declines to take the case, then the whistleblower and his/ her attorney pursue the action against the defendant on their own. Under federal law, the government is entitled to triple the amount that was acquired during fraudulent activity. Given the size of government contracts and the amount of government spending, the damages in "qui tam" actions can rise into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
How is a Whistleblower Compensated?
As compensation for helping to expose the fraud, the whistleblower is entitled to a share of the money recovered from the entity or person committing the fraud. If the government decides to "intervene," the individual who blew the whistle can receive 15-25 percent of the proceeds, depending upon his or her contribution to the case. Where the government does not intervene, the whistleblower can recover 25-30 percent of the proceeds.
What Types of Things Can Have Fraudulent Activity?
Almost any expenditure of taxpayer dollars can potentially have fraudulent activity. Many false claims to the federal government often involving Medicare, Medicaid, construction contracting, or military and defense contracting.
For example, Alan Fowler Law, PLLC is located in Key West, Florida, home of Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West. NAS Key West is home to Joint Interagency Task Force South, a multi-national anti-narcotics operation, Tactical Combat Training System, which trains fighter pilots in the military's most sophisticated simulation program, Strike Fighter Squadron 106, Fighter Squadron Composite 111, U.S. Army Special Forces Underwater Operations School, U.S. Navy Research Lab, Naval Branch Health Clinic, Veterans Administration Outpatient Clinic, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Key West, and over 30 other "tenant" commands. NAS Key West is the largest landowner in the Florida Keys, encompassing more than 5,800 acres, and it's the largest employer.
While government contract fraud can take many forms, some of the most common types of contractor frauds include providing the government with substandard products or services, substituting cheaper or substandard parts than that which was contracte, shifting costs and expenses between one or more contracts, and, improperly inflating costs and charges.
We are uniquely situated to handle qui tam litigation in the Florida Keys, as Alan Fowler is a former active duty Navy JAG Officer whose last duty station was at NAS Key West at its Staff Judge Advocate (akin to General Counsel).
What About State and Local Governments?
False claims also can be made against the state or local government.
The "Florida False Claims Act" provides for recovery and penalties against any person or entity that defrauds the state or local governments, including any Florida county, municipality, town, school district, hospital authority, or other political subdivision. The case will be brought in the name of the State of Florida or local government. Like with claims of fraud against the federal government, claims of fraud against the state or local government can arise from numerous scenarios, such as overbilling or billing for unnecessary services or services/goods not provided, improper payments or fees, kickbacks, falsifying test results or certifications relating to quality or cost of products sold to the government, and inaccurate or off-label marketing of pharmaceuticals.
Call Alan Fowler Law, PLLC If You Are Suspicious of a Person or Entity Defrauding the Taxpayers
Our firm can handle whistleblower cases throughout Florida, and Alan Fowler's years of litigation experience and serving in the military makes him uniquely equipped to recognize and handle fraudulent claims against the federal, state, or local governments.