Whistleblower Case Against Military Trucking Company Can Move Forward
On Tuesday, February 25th, a federal judge in South Carolina agreed that a whistleblower case against a military contracted trucking company could move forward. The trial is set to begin sometime in either March or April 2015.
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 False Claims Act, also known as the Whistleblower Act or a qui tam lawsuit, is intended to encourage people to come forward with information and assist the government in stopping the waste of Government funds. It is a provision of the Federal Civil False Claims Act that allows a private citizen to file a suit, in the name of the U.S. Government, charging fraud by government contractors and other entities that receive or use government funds.
These private citizens, known as “relators” or “whistleblowers,” relate information to the government and share in any money recovered. Qui tam lawsuits have been, and continue to be, a very effective and successful tool in combating government procurement and program fraud.
The lawsuit did not state how much of the $723 million might have been false claims and billing.
On Tuesday, Judge Joe Anderson dismissed one part of the whistleblower case, which alleged that Covan engaged “in a intracorporate conspiracy.” He said that there was not enough evidence to move forward on the government’s claims of such a broad conspiracy.
Covan denies the fraud allegations. In the first pleadings before Judge 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.
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 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
The False Claims Act, also known as the Whistleblower Act or a qui tam lawsuit, is intended to encourage people to come forward with information and assist the government in stopping the waste of Government funds.
Common whistleblower actions include:
- Medicare fraud,
- defense contractor fraud, and
- other kinds of fraud.
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.
Call Today to Schedule a FREE Qui Tam Consultation
If you are personally aware of a fraud that has been committed by your current or former employer, a competitor or otherwise and you wish to be a whistleblower, 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. You can also speak with one of our qui tam lawyers by call 803-252-4800.