The Danger of False Claims
False claims are a broad array of laws designed to punish individuals or corporations that attempt to defraud the United States government. Anyone can report a false claim, whether or not they are affiliated with the government. Which means that you may be accused and investigated for a false claim even if you never broke federal law.
These accusations and investigations can turn your life upside down. Any level of privacy you previously had may be stripped of you as federal agencies look into the accusation. Your friends and family may come to distrust you, whether you are convicted of the crime or not. The good reputation you may have worked diligently for will likely be completely shredded by the time the investigation begins.
The Different Kinds of Claims
The False Claims Act (FCA) was passed by President Lincoln in 1863 and was established in order to keep both companies and private citizens from defrauding the government. This law encompasses many different kinds of false claims that a person or company can commit. All can carry serious repercussions if you are convicted of making one. The three most common kinds of false claims that we at Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP have seen are:
Government Contractor Fraud: When the government needs certain goods or services that it cannot provide for itself, it will usually hire contractors. These contractors can be hired for a wide swath of responsibilities, including construction, manufacturing, or even defense. Many companies work on contracts with the government, and so there can be fierce competition to be hired by the government. Some contractors may resort to bribes, false certificates, or kickbacks. If they do this, then they are in violation of the FCA and may be punished accordingly.
Healthcare Fraud: Healthcare fraud is one of the most common false claims in America. Healthcare Fraud usually means that pharmaceutical companies, healthcare providers, or companies that manufacture medical devices have offered kickbacks, overcharged, or created false bills while working with the government.
Environmental Fraud: As the U.S. government regulates environmental issues, such as waste dumping and air pollutions, individuals and companies who violate these regulations, and then lie or refuse to report said violations, could be committing environmental fraud.
Because the FCA is a federal law, rather than a state one, you could face a federal investigation and, if you are prosecuted, you will be tried in a federal court. Federal crimes are no joke and can be difficult to defend against. That’s why you need an experienced attorney by your side should you be facing an accusation of a false claim.
When You Are Accused of a False Claim
When a person accuses a company of a false claim, they are commonly referred to as a “whistleblower”. The United States has extensive laws around whistleblowers and their protection. In fact, although the government has revised the FCA several times since Lincoln first created it, the very first iteration included protections and rewards for whistleblowers.
This means that being a whistleblower can actually be beneficial and some individuals are motivated to make false accusations. While the government will investigate these claims and only prosecute those they feel they have a case against, there are still consequences even if the charges are dismissed.
Being investigated for fraud can ruin your reputation. To many people, fraud is just a synonym for liar and that is how you may be viewed for years to come. Your own friends and family may find it difficult to trust you, and your relationships with them could begin to fracture. On top of all that, many employers will likely avoid hiring you if they find out you were investigated for fraud. Your professional life may reach a dead-end completely.
Federal investigations are thorough and often callous. They care more about finding evidence than they do about respecting your right to privacy. This is why if you have been accused of a false claim you need the best legal team on your side to protect your rights. We at Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP have years of experience helping clients accused of fraud. Get in touch with a Los Angeles federal defense attorney by calling (213) 688-0460.