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DOJ Enforcement Actions

The Department of Justice is the principal federal agency authorized to enforce the laws and defend the interests of the United States. As such, it oversees the enforcement of the False Claims Act, the foundation of the American whistleblower system, as well as numerous other laws.

The agency traces its origins to the Judiciary Act of 1789 which created the Office of the Attorney General, and the 1870 Act to Establish the Department of Justice, which established the agency as “an executive department of the government of the United States” with the Attorney General as its head.

The agency is comprised of numerous divisions with the Civil Division and in some instances, the Criminal Division, overseeing investigations and prosecutions under the False Claims Act. The U.S. Attorneys Office of the federal district where the False Claims Act case is filed also plays a key role in False Claims Act enforcement.

Below are summaries of recent DOJ settlements or successful resolutions under the False Claims Act as well as other successful prosecutions for fraud and misconduct. If you believe you have information about fraud which could give  rise to a claim for a whistleblower reward, please contact us to speak with one of our experienced whistleblower attorneys.

August 30, 2022

Vision Quest Industries, Inc., which manufactures knee braces and other durable medical equipment, has agreed to pay $2.25 million to resolve claims that it violated the Anti-Kickback Statute by paying commissions to an independent sales representative based on VQ’s net revenue for each knee brace ordered by a particular purchaser which then, in turn, submitted claims for payment to Medicare.  The settlement with VQ follows earlier settlements in 2020 and 2019USAO MN

August 26, 2022

Houston-based Amplify Energy Corp. and two of its subsidiaries will plead guilty to violations of the Clean Water Act and pay a criminal penalty of $7.1 million to resolve charges arising from the October, 2021 discharge of approximately 25,000 gallons of crude oil from the San Pedro Bay Pipeline in Long Beach, California.  Defendants overrode multiple lead detection alarms to continue transferring crude oil from offshore facilities for processing, resulting in the leak from a crack in the pipeline.  In addition to the criminal penalty, defendants have agreed to pay approximately $5.8 million to compensate government agencies for response expenses, and implement additional compliance measures.  USAO CD Cal

August 23, 2022

Texas-based Cockerell Dermatopathology (CDP) has agreed to pay $3.75 million to resolve allegations of allowing millions of dollars in fraudulent claims to be submitted to TRICARE, in violation of the False Claims Act.  According to a government suit, CDP’s principal physician, Dr. Clay Cockerell, had allowed laboratory management company Progen to use its license to submit false claims for medically unnecessary tests in exchange for a twenty percent cut of the proceeds.  USAO NDTX

August 23, 2022

Essilor International, Essilor of America, Inc., Essilor Laboratories of America, Inc., and Essilor Instruments USA—which manufactures, markets, and distributes optical lenses and equipment to produce optical lenses—have agreed to pay $16.4 million to resolve allegations of defrauding Medicare and Medicaid.  In two separate qui tam suits, former sales managers Laura Thompson and Lisa Brez, and Christie Rudolph alleged that Essilor violated the Anti-Kickback Statute and False Claims Act by paying illegal kickbacks to optometrists and opthalmologists to induce purchases of their products for patients, including patients covered by Medicare and Medicaid.  USAO EDPA; USAO NDTX

August 18, 2022

The organized healthcare system for Ventura County, as well as three healthcare providers, have agreed to pay a combined total of $70.7 million to resolve allegations of violating the California and federal False Claims Acts in connection with Medi-Cal’s Adult Expansion program, which extended coverage to previously uninsured adults without dependents.  Gold Coast Health Plan, Dignity Health, Clinicas del Camino Real, Inc., and Ventura County (the owner and operator of Ventura County Medical Center) allegedly submitted, or caused to be submitted, bills for unallowed expenses, bills for “Additional Services” that were duplicative of services already required, and bills with pre-determined costs that weren’t reflective of fair market value.  CA AG; USAO CDCA

August 15, 2022

Flight instruction company Universal Helicopters Inc. will pay $7 million, and Dodge City Community College will pay $500,000, to resolve claims that the defendants made false statements to the VA in order to receive funding through the Post-9/11 GI Bill program for training programs they jointly ran.  Specifically, the defendants were alleged to have falsely certified that no more than 85 percent of the students in helicopter flight instructor programs were receiving VA benefits.  The government’s investigation was initiated by a whistleblower suit brought under the False Claims Act by a veteran and former student in the program, William Rowe.  Rowe will receive $1.125 million of the settlement.  DOJ

August 11, 2022

Menswear company Luchiano Visconti Loutie LLC d/b/a Luchiano Visconti and its manager Sasha Hourizadeh will pay $3.64 million for violating the False Claims Act by underreporting the value of imported apparel, resulting in over $1.8 million in evaded customs duties. Visconti and Hourizadeh regularly provided falsified invoices to customs brokers that significantly understated the true value of the imported menswear. In some instances, a complicit foreign manufacturer would provide Visconti two sets of invoices—one reflecting itemized pricing details at a reduction, and the second reflecting “services” provided which, when combined, reflected the actual value of the goods. A related whistleblower suit was filed prior to the Government joining the matter. USAO SDNY

August 11, 2022

Spivack, Inc., formerly operating as Verree Pharmacy, and owner-pharmacist Mitchell Spivack, have agreed to pay over $4.1 million in civil penalties for dispensing opioids despite numerous red flags the drugs were being diverted—all in violation of the False Claims Act and the Controlled Substances Act. In furtherance of the fraud, Spivack made false statements to drug distributors to maintain the façade of legitimacy, while concurrently drawing millions from the pharmacy and harming the public. In addition to their opioid fraud, Spivack and Verree effectuated their “Bill But Don’t Fill” scheme, where they would enter “BBDF” in their internal computer system, and would submit false claims to insurers for drugs not actually dispensed. USAO EDPA

August 11, 2022

Industrial battery maker Eos Energy Storage LLC will pay $1.02 million, after a whistleblower filed suit alleging violations of the False Claims Act. From mid-2018 to mid-2019, Eos failed to declare the value of certain components shipped overseas to be assembled and then imported back into the United States. Eos also failed to declare transportation and packing costs on more than 60 occasions, which Eos further acknowledged was their responsibility as importer of record. The whistleblower will receive 20% of the settlement amount. USAO NJ

August 10, 2022

Melissa Lynne Horner, co-owner of H & H Earthworks, Inc., will spend 30 months in prison and pay over $2.8 million in restitution for failing to pay employee and employer taxes to the IRS, as well as Earthworks’ portion of the FICA taxes. Rather than paying taxes, Horner used the money for her personal gain, spending over $100,000 on motor sport vehicles, $90,000 to a real estate title company, and at least $50,000 on home renovations and $20,000 for a motorhome. USAO MT
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