An Overview Of COVID-19 Fraud And Whistleblower Claims
To address the financial fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) in March of 2020. Since that time, several other state and federal stimulus bills and economic support packages have been signed into law. With so much money injected into the economy, fraud is a serious concern.
A recent study cited by The New York Times estimates that 15 percent of all funds disbursed through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) were fraudulent. Federal and state authorities are relying on whistleblowers to help stop COVID-19 related fraud schemes. Here, our Florida COVID-19 fraud attorneys provide an overview of COVID-19 fraud claims.
COVID-19 Fraud Can Occur in Many Ways
As noted above, state and federal governments have rolled out a vast web of COVID-19 economic relief programs over the past 18 months. Fraud can occur against any of these programs. Some notable examples of COVID-19 fraud that the federal government has highlighted as areas of concern include:
- Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) small business loans;
- Treasury Department Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF);
- Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs);
- Funds made available through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021;
- The $100 billion distributed to support COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution; and
- Medicare/Medicaid fraud designed to take advantage of COVID-19 related regulations.
In other words, the federal government is prioritizing anti-fraud enforcement across a wide range of different matters—from people and businesses obtaining relief funds that they are not truly entitled to under the law to health care companies and medical providers billing government programs for unnecessary COVID-19 treatments.
The False Claims Act (FCA) is a Powerful Anti-Fraud Tool
The False Claims Act (FCA) is one of the most powerful and effective anti-fraud tools that the federal government has at its disposal. Many states have similar state-level statutes in place. For example, the Florida False Claims Act is modelled after the federal law and helps to prevent fraud against state-based programs.
As a whistleblower, the key thing to know about the False Claims Act is that it includes a qui tam provision. Under the law, a whistleblower can file a qui tam on behalf of the government. In other words, the False Claims Act allows individual employees and others with inside knowledge about fraud to take action to rectify the matter and protect taxpayer dollars.
Through a qui tam claim, a whistleblower can recover financial compensation valued between 15 percent and 30 percent of the underlying fraud. A whistleblower who comes forward and helps to stop a multi-million dollar COVID-19 fraud scheme could be entitled to significant compensation through a qui tam claim.
Get Help From a Whistleblower Lawyer in Florida
At Guttman, Freidin & Celler, our Florida whistleblower attorneys are experienced, results-focused advocates for employees and other parties who are preparing to disclose information to stop fraud. If you have any questions about COVID-19 fraud whistleblower claims, we can help. For a strictly confidential initial consultation, please contact our Miami law office today. We provide nationwide legal representation in whistleblower claims.