Tampa Government Fraud Lawyer
Fraud against the government costs taxpayers billions of dollars each year, and government agencies employ full-time investigators to uncover as much fraud as possible. Health care, education, and research fraud are some of the industries where fraud is most prevalent. At Trombley & Hanes, our Tampa government fraud lawyers represent clients accused of fraud or related offenses.
Several federal laws focus on the investigation and prosecution of various fraudulent schemes, and these laws have given United States Attorneys many weapons in their arsenals. Unfortunately, many innocent people can get caught up in fraud investigations and face serious penalties even though the evidence against them is quite weak. Please contact us today to learn more.
The federal government is concerned with overuse of their government programs, and to that end passed the Anti-Kickback Statute, found at 41 U.S.C. § 51 et seq. This law prohibits receiving or offering something of value (a “kickback”) in exchange for referrals which use government services.
Illegal kickbacks are a serious issue in the health care industry. Nursing homes, hospice services, and ambulance providers might offer or receive kickbacks from hospitals in exchange for referrals. Sometimes offering services at a steep discount could itself constitute a kickback. A conviction under the Anti-Kickback Statute carries up to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
The federal Stark Law also prohibits referrals for services where a doctor or a family member own a share of the business. Consequently, a doctor cannot refer a patient to a rehabilitation clinic of which the doctor is a part-owner.
Bribery of Government Officials
Fraud sometimes includes bribing officials. Under 18 U.S.C. § 201, it is illegal to give or receive something of value to a government official with the intent of influencing an official act. Government officials are also prohibited from accepting a gratuity for official acts.
A bribery conviction can result in 15 years in prison and disqualification from holding office in the future. A defendant might also need to pay back three times the amount of money they received. So an official who received a $250,000 bribe might need to pay back $750,000.
Other Federal Laws Related to Fraud
If the government suspects a fraudulent scheme, they have many tools in the toolbox for charging individuals:
- 18 U.S.C. § 1001 prohibits making false statements
- 18 U.S.C. § 287 outlaws making false claims
- 18 U.S.C. § 371 criminalizes conspiracies to defraud the government
- 18 U.S.C. § 666 prohibits embezzlement or theft of government funds
A conviction under any of these statutes could result in loss of liberty and other repercussions. Where prosecutors lack evidence of a substantive offense like bribery, they might seek maximum penalties for false statements.
Civil False Claims
Fraud is also a civil offense, and the government may bring civil actions to recoup money lost due to fraudulent schemes. The False Claims Act gives the government the power to seek penalties for anyone submitting a false claim to the government, including treble damages. The law also deputizes private citizens to bring claims on behalf of the government and keep a portion of the proceeds for themselves.