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State Enforcement Actions

Each state enforces its laws and defends its interests, and states often work with the federal government in investigating and prosecuting corporate frauds.  Whistleblowers with knowledge of fraud or wrongful conduct that involves state or local funds or programs may be able to bring a claim under a state or local False Claims Act, and may be eligible to receive a monetary reward and protection against retaliation.

Below are summaries of recent settlements, successful prosecutions, and enforcement actions by states. If you believe you have information about fraud which could give rise to a claim under a State or Local False Claims Act or other whistleblower reward provision, please contact us to speak with one of our experienced whistleblower attorneys.

March 25, 2021

The eighth highest grossing casino in California, Artichoke Joe’s Casino, has agreed to pay $5.3 million in the largest agreed-upon penalty in California’s gambling regulation history.  According to the Attorney General’s Office, Artichoke Joe’s failed to accurately or timely report an investigation by the federal Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to California’s Bureau of Gambling Control, as required under the Gambling Control Act of 1998.  As a result of the federal investigation, Artichoke Joe’s admitted that it failed to implement and maintain an effective anti-money laundering program and failed to report certain suspicious activity, in violation of the Bank Secrecy Act; the casino will pay a separate $5 million penalty to resolve those charges.  CA AG

March 23, 2021

Medical device manufacturer Boston Scientific Corporation has agreed to pay $188.6 million to 47 states and the District of Columbia to resolve allegations concerning its transvaginal surgical mesh, which were found to be deceptively marketed in violation of consumer protection laws and allegedly caused serious complications for thousands of women nationwide.  As part of the settlement, Boston Scientific also agreed to implement various marketing, training, and clinical trial reforms.  Similar settlements were previously reached with other medical device manufacturers, including Johnson & Johnson, which paid $116.9 million in 2019, and C.R. Bard, which paid $60 million in 2020.  CA AG; FL AG; NY AG

March 2, 2021

Hedge fund manager Thomas E. Sandell has paid $105 million to resolve claims first brought by a whistleblower under the New York False Claims Act alleging that Sandell evaded tens of millions in state and local taxes by falsely claiming that $450 million in management and performance fees he recognized in 2017 were not earned for services performed in New York, despite the fact that his fund, Sandell Asset Management Corporation, operated in New York and represented to the SEC that New York City was its principal place of business.  In his effort to evade NY taxes, Sandell moved to London for a period of time, opened an office in Florida, and managed SAMC expenses through a shell company that he also owned and controlled, all while continuing to perform the investment services that generated the fee income in New York.  When Sandell’s accountant informed him that he would have to pay NY state taxes, he terminated them and retained a firm that took his preferred position.  The whistleblower will receive an award of $22.05 million, which is 21% of the government’s recovery. NY

February 23, 2021

Cryptocurrency trading platform Bitfinex, operated by iFinex, and Tether were ordered to end all trading activity for NY customers and agreed to pay $18.5 million in penalties following an investigation into their handling of customer deposits and withdrawals that resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions of customer assets.  Tether was found to have falsely represented that each of its stablecoins was backed one-to-one by U.S. dollars in reserve when, in fact, they were not.  NY

February 12, 2021

General Motors (GM) has agreed to a $5.75 million settlement with the State of California to resolve allegations of making false and misleading statements to investors, including the state’s largest pension system, California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS).  According to Attorney General Xavier Becerra, GM cheated California twice—first by failing to disclose a faulty ignition-switch issue to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that it had been aware of for almost ten years, and which ultimately led to 124 fatalities and 274 injuries, and second by concealing the problem from investors and failing to build reserves for losses it knew was coming.  The company’s actions artificially inflated its stock price, causing CalPERS to lose millions of dollars.  CA AG

February 5, 2021

Private equity fund ACP X, LP, its manager Laurence Allen, and other corporate entities owned and controlled by Allen including NYPPEX Holdings, LLC, have been ordered to pay nearly $7 million.  Allen allegedly used investor funds to pay himself and others exorbitant salaries and cover the expenses of Allen’s affiliated entities, contrary to representations to investors.  A receiver was appointed to wind down the fund.  NY

February 3, 2021

In a settlement valued at $4.1 million, Schnitzer Steel Industries will pay penalties and costs, undertake supplemental environmental projects, and make significant improvements to its processes to resolve claims that it violated environmental laws at its Oakland, California metal shredding and recycling facility, including through the release of particulate matter contaminated with hazardous metals such as lead, cadmium, and zinc.  CA

January 22, 2021

Apria Healthcare Group, Inc. and Apria Healthcare LLC have agreed to a $40 million nationwide settlement to resolve allegations of violating federal and state False Claims Acts in seeking reimbursement for their non-invasive ventilators (NIVs).  Of the three types of respiratory equipment offered by Apria, NIVs receive the highest reimbursements and for the longest period of time, due to the amount of maintenance they require.  Following a qui tam suit filed in New York in 2017, state and federal government investigators found that between 2014 and 2019, Apria persuaded healthcare providers to switch patients from a ventilator with lower reimbursements to the NIVs, then billed state Medicaid programs for the NIVs even when they were either not used, not used consistently, or not medically necessary.  CA AG; FL AG

January 15, 2021

The Colonial Automotive Group, Inc., a chain of automobile dealerships, will pay $1 million to resolve allegations that they defrauded the Massachusetts state Department of Unemployment Assistance.  The dealership allegedly encouraged employees who were furloughed as a result of the state’s COVID-19 in-person business closures to sign up for unemployment benefits. and then requested those workers continue to perform dealership work, without pay, while they were collecting state benefits.  MA

December 21, 2020

Substance abuse treatment provider A.R.E.B.A.-CASRIEL, Inc. d/b/a Addiction Care Interventions Chemical Dependency Treatment Centers (“ACI”) and its owner, Steven Yohay, agreed to pay a total of $6 million to resolve federal and New York state claims that they defrauded Medicaid including through the payment of kickbacks and other fraudulent conduct in connection with the enrollment of Medicaid beneficiaries into ACI’s inpatient treatment program.  Defendants allegedly employed drivers who were compensated in part based on the number of patients they recruited, to target homeless individuals to enroll in ACI’s inpatient treatment program by offering food, cash, and money to purchase drugs, and/or alcohol. In addition, ACI unlawfully paid a patient recruiter, and enrolled Medicaid patients who had not been evaluated by a qualified healthcare professional, including by copying a physician’s signature.  The government’s investigation was initiated by a whistleblower complaint filed by a former employee, who will receive an undisclosed amount of the settlement.  USAO SDNY; NY
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