Virginia-based Beam Bros. Trucking Inc. and its principles have agreed to settle a federal False Claims Act case for $1,025,000. According to the Justice Department, Beam Bros. entered into U.S. Postal Service contracts to transport mail.
The USPS enters into such contracts across the United States. In some of the contracts but not others, the USPS provides "Voyager Cards" that pay for the truckers' fuel.
In this case, it was alleged that Beam Bros. used the Voyager Cards to buy gas while on contracts that didn't provide for their use. As a result, the USPS paid inflated charges on the Voyager Cards.
"Contractors working for the federal government are held to the same high ethical standards as full-time employees," said a U.S. Attorney involved in the case. "This settlement will return more than $1 million to the USPS."
A former employee brought a whistleblower case against the company under the so-called "qui tam" provision of the False Claims Act, and the Justice Department intervened. The False Claims Act gives whistleblowers a percentage of any recovery made in such cases, but the whistleblower's share in this settlement has yet to be determined.
In most cases where the government intervenes in a False Claims Act qui tam case, the whistleblower (called a "relator) is entitled to between 15 and 25 percent of the total recovery. If the government does not intervene and the relator successfully resolves the case, they typically receive between 25 and 30 percent of the recovery along with legal fees and other expenses. There are certain situations in which the relator's award can be reduced, however, such as if they planned and initiated the fraud in question.
"This settlement demonstrates that we will hold accountable federal contractors engaging in fraud, and will ensure that federal funds are protected from overcharges and abuse," commented the Justice Department's Civil Division's acting assistant attorney general.
If your company handles government contracts, you may be in a position to take on fraud, waste and abuse. If you know of false claims against the government, you may be interested in blowing the whistle through a False Claims Act lawsuit. Before you do so, we recommend contacting an attorney with experience handling False Claims Act lawsuits so you can be confident that your case is filed correctly and you are protected as much as possible from retaliation.