Qui tam is a form of common law that allows individuals to take action on behalf of the government, usually in the form of reporting fraud. The False Claims Act is one of the most common types of qui tam, which protects whistleblowers. The False Claims Act first originated in the Civil War as a means to reduce fraud. The U.S. government expects qui tam actions to increase in the wake of COVID-19.
U.S. Government’s Economic COVID-19 Stimulus Package
The United States signed a historic $2 trillion economic stimulus package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on March 27, 2020.
This package included financial aid for:
- The unemployed
- Students with loans
- Cash payments to the majority of Americans
- Large corporations
- Small businesses
- State and local governments
- Public services
In an attempt to monitor funds and reduce the occurrence of fraud, the government also tasked the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) with investigating, and prosecuting, anyone committing fraud related to the fund. In fact, there is a specifically designated department, the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (SIGPR), who will oversee the program. The government also encouraged U.S. residents to report any knowledge of fraud. In doing this, they may be eligible for rewards. This person, referred to as a relator, could potentially receive up to 30% of the recovered funds. Just as the number of fraud cases is expected to increase during COVID-19, so is the number of relators.
The search for fraud and relators will not stop immediately following the COVID-19 threat. In fact, the government has given the DOJ and the SIGPR departments a $25 million budget, along with up to five years to conduct, supervise, and coordinate all audits and transactions related to CARES Act. This means that individuals and business owners benefiting from the stimulus will need to maintain records for a minimum of five years.
How To Reduce Your Qui Tam Risk
Whether you are an individual collecting unemployment or a small business, using a small business loan to get by, there are steps that you can take to protect yourself from a qui tam risk. While qui tam is meant to reduce fraud, many individuals will also be subject to an audit, even when they haven’t done anything wrong.
Reduce your qui tam risk with the following tips:
- Keep record of everything: Keep record of all loans, documents, letters, and how you’ve used the funds. This will make it easier to provide documentation in the event of an audit.
- Give someone the task of knowing the federal changes: As federal programs and their requirements are constantly changing, it can be difficult to keep up with them. Hire or assign one of your employees to be in charge of staying up-to-date on the most recent regulations adjustments.
- Consider all internal complaints: In many cases, an employee who suspects fraud might first notify others within the business. If this happens, consider all reports seriously and look into them in-depth.
- Reach out to a qui tam lawyer: Whether you are facing fraud charges or you are an employee who is worried about repercussions, it is a good idea to reach out to a lawyer who will evaluate the details of your case. There are laws in place to protect qui tam relators and every business owner deserves a chance to prove that they used the funds in an approved method.
Navigating qui tam laws during COVID-19 can feel confusing. But, with the legal representation of a law firm that is knowledgeable of qui tam laws, you can reduce your liability.
Contact an Experienced Cherry Hill Qui Tam Lawyer in New Jersey
Are you facing qui tam charges in New Jersey? The consequences of being charged could be severe, leaving you with a permanent criminal record and possibly even sending you to jail. That is why you need to speak with a qualified qui tam attorney as soon as possible about your case. The attorneys at Begelman & Orlow, P.C. have successfully represented clients charged with qui tam in Winslow, Lindenwold, Collingswood, Gloucester Township, and throughout New Jersey. Call (856) 547-7400 or fill out the online contact form to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team. We have an office conveniently located at 411 Route 70 East, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034, as well as an office located in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.
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