On March 20, 2020, Attorney General William Barr announced a nation-wide process for Americans to report fraud in the fight against Coronavirus (COVID19). The Justice Department also confirmed that all U.S Attorneys would “prioritize the investigation and prosecution of Coronavirus-related frauds.”
According to the Attorney General’s announcement, the Justice Department’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) will manage the nation-wide reporting system, and the Attorney General directed all U.S. Attorneys to appoint a Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator. The release urged all persons with relevant information to report these concerns through the NCDF’s hotline (1-866-720-5721) or email (email@example.com). The DOJ also published a special webpage dedicated to informing the public about Coronavirus frauds and how to report these crimes.
“This is a great first step in ensuring that no person’s health is placed at risk due to fraud and that every penny spent by the federal government is used according to the law,” said whistleblower attorney Stephen M. Kohn. Kohn also serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the National Whistleblower Center.
On Monday, before the Attorney General’s announcement, Kohn sent a formal letter to the Attorney General asking the DOJ to create a national-reporting process and ensure that Coronavirus-related frauds were the number-one prosecutorial priority of the Justice Department. Kohn’s law firm had also published on-line a detailed Q&A explaining the legal protections for whistleblowers who reported Coronavirus-related frauds.
Also published was a detailed article in the National Law Review explaining how whistleblowers can use the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act to hold fraudsters who misuse monies dedicated to fighting the adverse health or economic impacts of the Coronavirus accountable. The False Claims Act has extremely powerful anti-retaliation provisions, and also permits whistleblowers to obtain a financial reward.
“Experience teaches us that in the face of a crisis, fraudsters often seek ways to profit while others suffer. The False Claims Act has been used in the past to prosecute fraudsters who sold faulty bulletproof vests to police departments and who stole from disaster sites by committing FEMA contracting frauds. The False Claims Act is a powerful law that can effectively hold fraudsters accountable,” Kohn added.