Major Trucking Company Defrauded US Government for Years, According to False Claims Lawsuit
A new false claims lawsuit filed by the US Attorney’s Office in Columbia, SC alleges that a trucking company which carried belongings for military personnel defrauded the US government for years.
Covan World-Wide Moving and its affiliate Coleman-American Moving Services were paid by the federal government based on the weight of the items they moved. The false claims lawsuit alleges that, since 2007, the company “systematically falsified weight certificates, shipping records and invoices by increasing shipment weights.” The lawsuit claims the scheme is “potentially vast and complex fraud.”
“Defendants’ false claims scheme has resulted in a substantial loss to the U.S. and its taxpayers,” the lawsuit said. “Since just 2009, defendants and their affiliates are believed to have billed the federal government for $723 million worth of shipping and relocation services provided to the nation’s uniformed service personnel.”
The lawsuit did not state how much of the $723 million might have been false claims and billing.
According to the false claims suit, the fraud was discovered at an Augusta, SC truck shipping depot, which receives and ships belongings for Fort Jackson soldiers. Reportedly, some accurate weight certificates were replaced with false ones, while others had the correct weights whited-out and a new, fraudulent weight was written in.
“The higher the net weight of a shipment, the more money is charged to the government for the shipment,” the lawsuit says. This is standard procedure for privately-owned trucking companies that contract with the US Government to move belongings for soldiers.
Attorneys for the company say that the false claims suit is unsupported. In the first pleadings before US Judge Joe Anderson, the company said that the government’s lawsuit was “frankly outrageous.” There was not enough evidence, according to the defendants, that the fraud was intentional or widespread – there were only a few examples of overweight billings.
However, the false claims suit suggests that, in re-weighing shipments, the federal government discovered as many as 80% of the shipments were billed in excess of their actual weight. An investigation at the Augusta warehouse revealed 437 examples of potentially fraudulent weights on shipments. The government also stated that it found one of the trucking company’s “corporate managers” who specifically taught employees to falsify billing weights and cover up their actions.
The false claims lawsuit was filed by two whistleblowers, Mario Humberto Figueroa and his son Elmer Arnulfo Figueroa, who claim they worked at the Augusta warehouse and were specifically instructed by the trucking company to falsify weight billing.
The Strom Law Firm Can Help Protect Whistleblowers with the False Claims Act
If you are personally aware of a fraud that has been committed by your current or former employer, a competitor or otherwise, contact the Qui Tam attorneys at the Strom Law Firm today for a no cost consultation to discuss the facts of your case and whether filing a qui tam may be appropriate. We understand the complexity of the False Claims Act, and can help you with your case. We offer free, confidential consultations so contact us for help today. 803.252.4800.