People and businesses all over the country are facing a hard time with COVID-19. The government put programs in place to help them like the CARES Act and Payment Protection Program (PPP). Many people and businesses have used that money for good, but others have fraudulently taken that money. The Miami Herald recently highlighted a couple examples of the most extravagant fraud. One time, a man lied to get $9 million in Paycheck Protection Program money and then went gambling with it. Another time, a South Florida man got $4 million in Paycheck Protection Money and then bought a Lamborghini.
Do you know of a business doing this?
Is the business you work for taking Paycheck Protection Program money and not using it on its employees?
This is where it is important to read. Stop, before your run off to report it to just anyone! If you know of CARES Act or PPP fraud, do not run off to the newspaper or, even worse, the person who is committing the fraud. Call a lawyer experienced with whistleblower claims. Florida and federal law each give you a way to bring a whistleblower claim and get part of the money recovered. However, if you report the fraud to the newspaper first, you may waive your rights to your whistleblower share. You can do good for the community and for yourself, but you have to know how to follow all the rules or you waive the claim.
These claims are brought under the U.S. False Claims Act or the Florida False Claims Act. You may be able to bring the claim on behalf of the government. The benefit to you is that you are then entitled to a percentage of the money recovered. That can be millions of dollars depending on the claim. The damages for a violation of these acts can include:
- Fines: The company committing fraud may be fined for their violations.
- Whistleblower Awards: The person bringing the whistleblower action may be entitled to a whistleblower award.
- A potential claim for Wrongful Termination: The False Claims Act provides protection to whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers.
This is a specialized area of law and claims are usually brought in federal court. Our lawyers practice extensively in federal court and know how to prosecute a qui tam lawsuit and whistleblower cases. We have been involved in multiple qui tam claims that led to the successful recovery of money for both our clients and the government. If you know of your employer, a business, or someone else who took PPP or CARES Act money, and did not use it correctly, call us today to see if you have a whistleblower claim.
About the Author
William “Bill” Seitz is a Shareholder at Mase Mebane. His diverse backgrounds includes experience as a commercial litigator, tort litigation and wrongful death and personal injury with a particular interest in cruise ship and maritime law.
Bill has been honored as a Top Up and Comers attorney by the South Florida Legal Guide, named a Rising Star by SuperLawyers for 5 years.