SACRAMENTO — The Eastern District of California collected $49 million in criminal and civil enforcement actions and, with the help of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and other offices, an additional $3 billion in fiscal year 2016.
The largest amount of financial recovery came from cases involving government money fraudulently taken.
“Our office is committed to aggressively pursuing monetary compensation in both criminal and civil matters from those who cause harm to the public,” Phillip A. Talbert, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California, said in a statement. “Each year, we collect more money for victims and taxpayers than it costs to operate our office. This year’s financial recoveries are no different, and they reflect the strength of our commitment to ensuring that the public does not bear the costs of those who commit criminal and civil violations in our district.”
Funds were recovered on behalf of several organizations including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Internal Revenue Service, the Small Business Administration, and the Department of Education.
The DOJ recovered $4.7 billion from False Claim Act (FCA) cases in 2016. This is the third-highest FCA recovery amount in history, with $1.2 billion coming from the drug and medical device industry. .
“The federal budget is about $3.8 trillion,” John Doherty, president of the Civil Justice Association of California, told The Northern California Record. “So $4.7 billion is only a small percentage of that, but $4.7 billion is still a lot of money not matter how you slice it.”
Doherty said much of the funds were recovered from the housing-market crash. A report on justice.gov said that $1.6 billion in settlements of housing and mortgage claims, which was the federally insured mortgage program's second-largest annual recovery ever.
The department announced it “collected more than five times the appropriated budget for all 94 U.S. attorney’s offices and the main litigating divisions of the Justice Department combined” in the recently completed fiscal year.
In addition to FCA claims, the department also made recoveries in Controlled Substance Act violation cases. Marshall Medical Center alone paid $5.5 million to settle its FCA case. It recovered $1 million from the CRC Health Group’s case.
In the Eastern District of California, $7.5 million was recovered for wildfire damages in 2016.
Doherty believes the numbers are so high partly because of inflation, but also partly because of the department's focus on the FCA and not because fraud itself has risen.
“These numbers show we can be positive the department is enforcing the law, but there is no evidence to show the numbers of fraud are drastically rising,” he said.
While Doherty doesn’t believe fraud is rising, he does believe the department’s crackdown on recovering the funds might have a positive effect on fraud.
“Robust enforcement programs helps limit the amount of fraud out there,” he said. “Although you will never be able to eliminate fraud and crime, it does help dissuade some bad actors.”