October 22, 2007 – A number of federal agencies are currently investigating a growing list of suspects who are believed to have illegally profited, by way of government contract fraud, from the war in Iraq.
NEW YORK, New York, October 22, 2007 – It’s no secret that the defense industry has long been troubled by individuals and corporate entities who have gone to great lengths to commit fraud against taxpayers and the federal government. Qui tam attorneys often deal with these types of claims. As such, it may come as less than a shock that recently The New York Times reported that a number of federal agencies are currently investigating a growing list of suspects who are believed to have illegally profited, by way of government contract fraud, from the war in Iraq.
During a war, occurrences of government fraud significantly increase due to the large number and monetary value of available government contracts. Fraud is difficult to detect due to the vast amounts of contracts given, and in most cases, whistleblowing is the starting ground for an initial investigation.
Whistleblowers can file a fraud suit “pro se”, meaning without an attorney, on behalf of the U.S. Government, using a provision called qui tam.
The Department of Justice, the FBI, the Army Criminal Investigation Command, the Department of Justice, and other governmental agencies are investigating a number of leads into alleged government contractor fraud and kickback schemes involving the buying and selling of billions of dollars worth of equipment, weapons, and various other items for use by American and Iraqi forces spread throughout Iraq. A number of discrepancies have been noted by the agencies investigating this matter, such as instances where items, intended for use by the Iraqi security forces, were or were not delivered. According to The Times, by late August, seventy-three criminal investigations had been set in motion to probe allegations of government contract fraud in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait. At issue are contracts worth more than $5 billion and bribes in excess of $15 million. Many of these investigations may have started due to whistleblowing cases filed under the provision of qui tam. As qui tam lawsuits are initially kept under “seal”, the origins of such investigations remain hidden until much later in the proceedings.
Investigations have been initiated in a range of offenses believed to have been perpetrated by individuals of varying rank and power. Offenses run the range of low-ranking employees who may have submitted false claims for less than $2,500 to other cases involving senior-level workers engaging in possible bribery, product substitution, double-billing, and bid-rigging when attempting to secure or fulfill a government contract.
Needless to say, contract fraud of the government is heavily frowned upon by all citizens: it not only “cheats” the government in a time of crisis, but in many cases leaves soldiers with inadequate food or machinery or short of necessary supplies thereby potentially endangering the lives of thousands or tens of thousands of people. This is why, in these cases, whistleblowing should be commended as a brave and patriotic act and should be forwarded to knowledgeable qui tam attorneys who can then file the claim.
Commenting on the Times story, Alan J. Konigsberg, a partner at the national qui tam law firm of Levy Konigsberg LLP stated that “It’s a tragedy and an outrage that certain corporations and individuals would seek to take advantage of the U.S. government while it is trying to bring stability to Iraq and combat terrorism all over the globe. We, as a country, owe a debt of gratitude to those brave individuals who have come forward to speak out against those who have tried to reap unholy profits.”
In past cases, whistleblowers have helped the government to recover billions of dollars in misappropriated funds. Because of the whistleblower’s vital role in helping to protect the nation’s assets, they are allotted a minimum of 15 percent and a maximum of 30 percent of any money recovered by the government, regardless if a qui tam suit was filed by an individual with or without an attorney.