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October 15, 2020

Seventeen defendants who collectively received nearly $900,000 in improper crop insurance indemnity payments, have agreed repay the United States.  Defendants admitted that they submitted false claims for payments to federally-backed multi-peril crop insurance policies, including by falsely stating that the tobacco crops in question had been damaged, inflating crop loss amounts, and submitted falsified documentation about the quality of the tobacco crop.  USAO ED KY

September 28, 2020

Lakeway Regional Medical Center, LLC, together with affiliated parties Surgical Development Partners LLC, Surgical Development Partners of Austin Enterprises LLC, G. Edward Alexander, Frank Sossi, and John Prater, will pay $15.3 million to resolve allegations under the False Claim Act arising from the development of the hospital.  Defendants were alleged to have made numerous false statements in applying for a federally-insured mortgage loan for construction of the hospital, including overstating physician support for the hospital and understating other credit risks.  Specifically, while some investors had requested refunds, defendants delayed making those refunds in order to overstate cash on hand, and, after the mortgage funds were obtained, defendants distributed them in contravention of FHA requirements.  The hospital later defaulted on the loan. The government previously settled with other defendants.  DOJ 

September 25, 2020

A multinational industrial engineering company headquartered in Germany has agreed to pay $22 million to settle allegations of violating the False Claims Act.  In order to avoid paying certain import duties over a six year period, Linde GmbH and its Houston-based subsidiary, Linde Engineering North America LLC knowingly misrepresented the nature, classification, and valuation of its merchandise, which is used in the construction of natural gas and chemical manufacturing plants.  The misconduct was first brought to the government’s attention by a whistleblower, who will receive a $3.7 million share of the settlement proceeds.  The defendant later made a partial disclosure to the government prior to the government’s disclosure of its investigation.  DOJ; USAO EDPA

September 15, 2020

ITT Technical Institute settled claims with the CFPB and 48 states and the District of Columbia, agreeing to discharge outstanding student loans incurred for attendance at the for-profit college, run by holding company PEAKS.  PEAKS allegedly knew or was reckless in not knowing that many student borrowers did not understand the terms and conditions of those loans, could not afford them, or in some cases did not even know they had them. The settlement, valued at $330 million, also requires PEAKS to provide credit reporting agencies information to correct credit scores negatively affected by the illegal lending scheme, and to shut down after carrying out the settlement.  CFPB; Cal; FL; MI; PA; VA; WA

September 11, 2020

The Scripps Research Institute will pay $10 million to settle claims that overcharged the National Institutes of Health under research grants.  Under the terms of the grants, recipients may only use grant funds on tasks that specifically relate to the funded project.  Defendant was alleged to have an inadequate system for tracking researcher time and expenses, resulting in improper charges to the government for costs unrelated to funded projects, including time spent writing new grant applications, teaching, and engaging in other administrative activities. Former Scripps employee Thomas Burris, Ph.D., will receive $1.75 million as a whistleblower reward.  DOJ; USAO MD

August 26, 2020

LA-based clothing company Ambiance Apparel and its owner Sang Bum “Ed” Noh have pleaded guilty to customs violations and tax offenses, agreeing to pay a total of $118 million, which includes $36 million in previously-seized cash.  Defendants evaded import tariffs by colluding with Asian manufacturers for the submission of invoices to CBP that fraudulently understated the value of imported clothing. The fraudulent invoices indicated payment terms by letter of credit; a second invoice for the balance of the actual price was paid by defendants by wire transfer. In less than five years, Ambiance undervalued imports by about $82.6 million and failed to pay more than $17.1 million in tariffs. In addition, defendants failed to properly report cash transactions and maintained a second set of books for cash transactions, evading nearly $17 million in taxes.  The company will be placed on probation for five years and will be ordered to undertake specific compliance procedures.  USAO CD Cal

July 22, 2020

Auto parts distributor CWD Holdings LLC, which does business as Centric Parts, will pay $8 million to resolve claims in False Claims Act cases brought by two whistleblowers, Steven Hughes and Jeffrey Hawk.  The government alleged that over the course of ten years the defendant imported brake pads, falsely identifying them as unmounted brake pads, which are not subject to any tariff, when they were, in fact, mounted brake pads, which are subject to a 2.5% tariff.  Defendant thereby knowingly evaded millions of dollars in customs duties.  The whistleblowers will share a $1.48 million whistleblower award.  USAO ED MI; USAO CD CA

June 30, 2020

The University of Virginia will pay $1 million to resolve claims that it received rebates and credits on the purchase of materials and failed to account for those rebates and credits and reduce charges to the federal government in connection with federal grants and awards the university received.  USAO EDVA

May 22, 2020

The University of San Francisco has agreed to pay $2.5 million to resolve allegations of knowingly presenting false and fraudulent claims in order to obtain federal grants under the AmeriCorps State and National Program to support its San Francisco Teacher Residency Program, which supplements tuition and living expenses for teacher apprentices working within the local school district.  The government’s investigation, triggered by a whistleblower’s qui tam complaint, revealed that over 1,500 timesheets had been falsified and 61 awards had been falsely certified between 2014-2016, netting the university’s program and students over $1.7 million in grants.  USAO CDCA

April 27, 2020

Following a self-disclosure by Harvard University, the university will pay $1.36 million to resolve allegations that its T.H. Chan School of Public Health overstated the time and effort spent on certain NIH grants managed by professor Donna Spiegelman.  The government alleges that Professor Spiegelman and her team inappropriately distributed their time across all grants for which they provided statistical support, without accurately accounting for the time they actually spent on particular grants and, further, that the university knew or should have known about the overcharges.  USAO Mass
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