Navigating government contracts can be a confusing process. Discover the key statutes and regulations surrounding False Claims Act and Be Prepared to Defend Against Federal Charges.

What is the False Claims Act The False Claims Act (FCA), 31 USC 3729 -3733 originally enacted in 1863, is a piece of federal legislation that establishes civil liability for individuals and entities who knowingly make false or fraudulent claims for payment from the United States government.

“Knowingly” under the FCA includes having actual knowledge that a claim is false or acting with “reckless disregard” as to whether a claim is false. States have implemented similar laws designed to prevent fraud, kickbacks, and conspiracy.

Federal Government agencies, including the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General (DHHS OIG), and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), enforce 13 USC 3729 FCA laws. The Department of Justice aggressively pursues criminal and civil litigation against federal government contractors for false claims against the United States.

The FCA sets out liability for treble damages and also provides penalties for each false claim submitted to the government by contractors. The purpose of the law is to hold unscrupulous individuals accountable and discourage fraudulent activity by providing strong financial incentives to informers and tougher punishments for contractors. See information about False Claims Act and Subcontractor Liability

The False Claims Act is a federal law that also allows the government to pursue individuals and companies who have presented false or fraudulent claims for payment to a federal agency. It also provides incentives to whistleblowers and private citizens (relators) who report violations of the False Claims Act.

What is the Civil False Claims Act?

Under the civil False Claims Act, “knowingly” or intent to defraud is needed. This is why government law enforcement prefers to invoke liability in addition to criminal allegations. Agencies can initiate federal investigations for both the civil and criminal FCA. When assessing the “knowing” aspect of the Civil False Claims Ac, it includes not only actual knowledge of the false claims but also situations where government contractors and or CEOs and employees acted in deliberate ignorance or reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of the submitted information. Get information about the FCA elements and defenses.

What is the Criminal False Claims Act

There also is a criminal FCA (18 USC 287) which states “ Whoever makes or presents to any person or officer in the civil, military, or naval service of the United States, or to any department or agency thereof, any claim upon or against the United States, or any department or agency thereof, knowing such claim to be false, fictitious, or fraudulent, shall be imprisoned not more than five years and shall be subject to a fine in the amount provided in this title. Criminal penalties for submitting false claims include imprisonment and criminal fines.

What is the Difference Between the Federal Civil False Claims Act and Federal Criminal False Claims Act?

There is no specific “Federal Criminal False Claims Act.” However, there are important distinctions to be made between the Federal Civil False Claims Act (FCA) and criminal statutes related to false claims. Here’s an overview of each:

1. Federal Civil False Claims Act (FCA):
The FCA is a federal law that allows private individuals, known as qui tam relators or whistleblowers, to file lawsuits on behalf of the government alleging fraudulent claims for payment made to the government. The primary objective of the FCA is to combat fraud against the federal government and recover funds that have been fraudulently obtained.

Key features of the FCA include:

– Liability: The FCA imposes civil liability on individuals or entities that knowingly present, or cause to be presented, false or fraudulent claims for payment to the government. It covers a wide range of fraudulent activities, including false certifications, overbilling, improper billing, and submission of false records.

– Whistleblower Provisions: The FCA includes provisions that incentivize private individuals with knowledge of fraud to come forward as whistleblowers. Whistleblowers can file lawsuits on behalf of the government and may be eligible to receive a portion of any monetary recovery obtained through the lawsuit.

– Damages and Penalties: Violators of the FCA can be liable for significant damages, including treble (triple) the government’s actual damages plus penalties per false claim submitted. The FCA also allows the government to intervene in qui tam lawsuits and pursue its own claims against the alleged wrongdoers.

2. Criminal Statutes Related to False Claims:
While there is no specific “Federal Criminal False Claims Act,” several criminal statutes can be applied to false claims cases, depending on the circumstances. These criminal statutes may include:

– False Statements: Making false statements or providing false information to the government with the intent to obtain payment or benefit can be prosecuted under various federal criminal statutes, such as 18 U.S.C. 1001 (False Statements) or 18 U.S.C. 287 (False, Fictitious, or Fraudulent Claims).

– Conspiracy: Engaging in a conspiracy to commit fraud against the government, including submitting false claims, can be prosecuted under federal conspiracy statutes, such as 18 U.S.C. § 371 (Conspiracy to Commit Offense or to Defraud the United States).

– Other Fraud-Related Offenses: Depending on the specific conduct involved, additional federal criminal statutes may be applied, such as wire fraud (18 U.S.C. 1343), mail fraud (18 U.S.C. 1341), or healthcare fraud (18 U.S.C. 1347).

Criminal prosecutions under these statutes generally involve the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and may result in penalties such as fines, imprisonment, or both.

It’s important to consult with legal professionals specializing in False Claims Act cases to understand the specific legal frameworks and potential implications in any given situation.

Need Help Defending an FCA Case?

If you are a federal government contractor or employee needing immediate help defending a False Claims Act case, please call Theodore Watson, founder of Watson & Associates, LLC law firm. We have more than three decades of combined experience in federal government contracting. Our defense attorneys can help. Call Toll-Free at 1.866.601.5518.