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False Claims Act

Federal False, Fictitious, or Fraudulent Claims – 18 U.S.C. § 287

There are several federal statutes designed to protect the integrity of how the government operates and to make sure only people who are entitled are able to take advantage of services. In an effort to prevent people from engaging in illegal or unethical conduct associated with claims and services in matters impacting government services, fraudulent, unethical, or dishonest conduct are prohibited under different federal laws.

For example, 18 U.S.C. § 287 defines the federal crime of false, fictitious, or fraudulent claims. This statute doesn't apply to all false or fraudulent claims by someone, but only to claims made or presented to someone the civil, military, or naval service of the government, or to a department thereof any claim against the United States government.

In other words, this statute only applies to false or fraudulent claims against the United States government, or a department or agency within it.  It addresses knowingly presenting false, fraudulent, or fictitious claims.

18 U.S.C. § 287 is a provision that is designed to make it a fraud crime for anyone who attempts to obtain money, goods, or services from the government through different departments and agencies by presenting a false, fictitious, or fraudulent claim. It's a common tool for federal prosecutors in health care fraud and Stark law related cases.

It should be noted the federal prosecutor must be able to prove a defendant knowingly intended to deceive the government to provide them with a payment knowing they were not entitled to receive.

In other words, in a situation where there was a good faith mistake to receive a payment, or if there was a contract dispute between a contractor and the government on the terms of payment, this would not typically be sufficient for prosecution under this statute. Health care providers might receive a subpoena from the Office of Inspector General.

To give readers a better understanding of the False Claims Law under 18 U.S.C. § 287, our federal criminal defense attorneys are providing an overview below.

Federal False Claims Act

As discussed above, the federal False Claims Act applies to a person or business that contracts with the government. 18 U.S.C. § 287 establishes a criminal liability against any person, organization, or a contractor when they knowingly submit, or cause, a false or fraudulent claim when the intent is to receive payment or approval.

Submitting an unlawful false claim occurs when it was “knowingly” submitted that it was false. It also applies in a situation where a person or business didn't conduct due diligence, meaning they could be held liable for submitting claims with an inaccurate billing code.

In the most basic terms, 18 U.S.C. § 287 makes it illegal to submit a false claim – such as an invoice for medical services or equipment – to the government for payment.

Most cases pursued under the False Claims Act involve a health care provider that submitted bills for medical services or equipment not actually provided to a patient, or were not medically necessary for that patient.

Federal False claims cases can involve a wide range of activity, but it will primarily deal with one simple theory. When someone makes a claim they are entitled to receive money from the government, they can't use any type of deception, fraud, or false representations to obtain the money.

False claims under 18 U.S.C. § 287 is a serious federal offense that can result in a sentence of up to five years in federal prison and a substantial fine.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines

It should be noted that application of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines is crucial in false claims cases as the advisory guideline sentencing range for defendant's will be different based on the amount of loss.

These guidelines will calculate the loss amount as the total amount of intended loss, not the actual amount that was lost. Thus, even in a situation where your claim for payment was flagged for potential fraud and was not paid, you could still be held criminally liable for the total amount of the claim by a form of an enhanced offense level under the sentencing guidelines.

It should also be noted, however, the maximum penalty allowed under 18 U.S.C. § 287 is five years in federal prison. Even if the advisory guidelines exceeds five years, the federal sentencing court doesn't have the discretion to impose a longer sentence.

Related Federal False Claims Act Offenses

18 U.S. Code Chapter 15 is section of federal law dealing with criminal behavior associated with claims and services in matters affecting government. Related statutes for 18 U.S.C. § 287 False Claims Act include:

18 U.S.C. § 285 – Taking or using papers related to claims
18 U.S.C. § 286 – Conspiracy to defraud Government with claims
18 U.S.C. § 288 – False claims through postal service
18 U.S.C. § 289 – False claims for pensions payments
18 U.S.C. § 290 – Discharge papers withheld by claim agent
18 U.S.C. § 291 – Purchasing claims for fees by court officials
18 U.S.C. § 292 – Solicitation of employment and receiving unapproved fees

Defenses for 18 U.S.C. § 287 Federal False Claims Act Charges

If you were accused of violating the 18 U.S.C. § 287 false claims act, our criminal defense attorneys have several ways to challenge the charges. We need to first review all the details in order to develop an appropriate strategy. Common defenses include:

No intent to defraud 

Even in a situation where it can't be disputed you were not entitled to money or services claimed against the United States, we might be able to make an argument you had a reasonable good faith belief you were entitled to payment. The prosecutor has to prove you specifically had intent to defraud.

Mistake of fact

We might be able to make a reasonable argument you were honestly mistaken on the terms of a government contract, or were negligent on presenting a claim requesting more money than you were owed. Again, this is another way to argue there was a lack of fraudulent intent.

Other defenses could include entrapment or government misconduct where evidence could potentially be thrown with a formal motion to suppress before the District Court.

If you are under investigation or already indicted in a false, fictitious, or fraudulent claims case described under 18 U.S.C. § 287, our federal criminal attorneys can help you.

During the prefiling stage of your case, we could negotiate with the federal prosecutor for a resolution before indictment, which could lower penalties.

We are also skilled trial lawyer and could litigate the case in a federal jury trial to communicate your innocence in an attempt to secure an acquittal.

Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-ranked criminal defense law firm with a long record of success defending clients against all type of federal offenses. We are located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067. Call our law firm for a consultation at 877-781-1570.

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