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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.

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 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

DME provider Apria Healthcare Group, Inc. and Apria Healthcare LLC will pay $40.5 million to settle allegations brought in a qui tam action filed by three former Apria employees that they improperly billed government healthcare programs for beneficiary rentals of non-invasive ventilators (“NIVs”) that were not medically necessary or which were provided with improper waivers of patient co-payments.  Medicare pays as much as $1,400 a month for NIVs, and providers are required to monitor patient usage of NIVs and stop billing when the NIVs are no longer being used.  Apria respiratory therapists failed to monitor patient NIV usage and even when Apria knew that patients were no longer using the NIVs, Apria often did not take steps to stop seeking payment.  In addition, Apria sales staff steered doctors and beneficiaries to use NIVs when less-expensive alternatives were available, and routinely waived co-payments for NIV patients without making an assessment of the patient’s financial need.  USAO SDNY; CA AG; FL AG

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

December 7, 2020

The largest non-bank mortgage servicer in the country, Nationstar Mortgage, has agreed to pay $79.2 million in restitution to over 55,000 borrowers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia who were harmed by the lender’s noncompliance with numerous laws, including the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010, Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), and Homeowner’s Protection Action of 1998 (HPA), from 2011 to 2017.  Additionally, Nationstar will pay another $7.1 million in costs and penalties to government parties.  CFPB; DOJ; CA AG; NY AG; PA AG

December 7, 2020

DISH Network LLC has agreed to pay a record-breaking $126 million in civil penalties for violating the FTC’s Telemarking Sales Rule, as well as a combined $84 million to the States of California, Illinois, North Carolina, and Ohio for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.  In 2017, a federal district court found DISH liable for more than 66 million unlawful telemarketing calls made directly by the company or by retailers marketing their products and services.  The total settlement amount, $210 million, represents the largest civil penalty ever obtained for do-not-call violations.  DOJ; CA AG; NC AG

December 7, 2020

A chain of supermarkets in the New York area has been ordered to pay $4.7 million to settle claims under the state False Claims Act that alleged the chain operated a series of tax avoidance schemes from 2012 to 2018.  The case against Food World entities Pine Tree Meat & Produce Inc., Food Jungle, Inc., Sonamoo, Inc., and CNI Meat & Produce, and owner Hi Jong Lee was sparked by a qui tam whistleblower and involved three schemes: the use of separate cash registers so cash purchases would not be recorded for tax purposes, the use of fake merchandise returns to underreport actual sales, and the payment of a majority of its employees in cash and off the books.  AG NY

December 3, 2020

Workrite Ergonomics LLC and its parent company, Knape & Vogt Manufacturing Co., have agreed to pay $7.1 million to resolve a qui tam suit brought by a former sales manager, Michael Franchek, which alleged that Workrite overcharged the federal government for office furniture purchased under General Services Administration (GSA) contracts.  Workrite allegedly failed to provide GSA, and state agencies that relied on GSA's pricing, with accurate information during contract negotiations, and failed to extend lower prices to government customers as required by contract provisions.  As part of the settlement, Franchek will receive a relator’s share of $1.27 million.  DOJ; USAO NDCA; CA

November 2, 2020

Hospital system Memorial Health Services will pay a total of $31.5 million after self-disclosing that it overcharged California’s Medicaid program, Medi-Cal, for outpatient prescription drug reimbursements under the 340B Drug Pricing Program.  Memorial Health billed Medi-Cal for outpatient drugs at its usual and customary rate, rather than the lower “actual acquisition costs,” as required under the 340B Drug Pricing Program. California will receive $18.9 million of the settlement, and the federal government will receive $12.6 million.  Cal; CD Cal
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