Fraud against federal or state government is a serious problem, costing taxpayers billions of dollars each year. If you work for a company that is cheating the government, there is plenty of incentive for you to come forward. First of all, if the fraud is ever discovered, your company could be ruined — and so could your reputation and your career. You might even face criminal charges for your participation in the scheme. However, if you come forward with information about the fraud, state and federal whistleblower laws protect you, and you could share in any funds the government recovers based on your knowledge. Denton & Denton Attorneys at Law ably assists individuals who find themselves in this dilemma. We aggressively prosecute your case in state or federal court and protect you against unlawful retaliation for your whistleblowing activity.
The federal False Claims Act, also known as the Lincoln Law, was enacted in 1863 in response to private contractors supplying goods to the Union Army during the Civil War who were gouging the government. The law creates a right of action for private citizens who have knowledge of fraud against the U.S. government to bring a qui tam lawsuit and share in amounts the government recovers. The Commonwealth of Virginia has a state version of the False Claims Act, called the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, which permits individuals to file qui tam lawsuits on behalf of the commonwealth and obtain a reward for funds recovered.
You must be able to substantiate an accusation of fraud with hard evidence rather than hearsay. If you simply assert that you heard a boss talk about “sticking it to Uncle Sam,” a court will dismiss your case out of hand. Therefore it’s important to have access to records and to consult with an experienced attorney before you approach the authorities.
Under a change made to the False Claims Act in 1986, the court automatically seals the record of your qui tam action for 60 days while the government examines the evidence you have to decide if it wants to get involved in the case. If the government declines to assume the case, you can still go forward with your own attorney, if the case is truly viable.
One very important consideration in bringing a claim is that your information must be new. If there is already an investigation underway, and the authorities have already learned what you plan to tell them, you have no right to file suit. However, you might qualify for whistleblower protections if you cooperate with the investigation.
If you become the plaintiff in a qui tam lawsuit, the law protects you from any form of retaliation for your whistleblowing activity. Your employer may not take any adverse job actions against you or act in a discriminatory manner. That means you cannot be fired, denied a raise or promotion, reassigned to lesser duties, or harassed because of your participation in the lawsuit. However, it can be difficult to prove your employer’s actions are retaliatory rather than a response to other factors, so you must consult an experienced whistleblower attorney.
If you are considering coming forward with information about fraud against the U.S. government or the Commonwealth of Virginia, our attorneys are prepared to help. Denton & Denton Attorneys at Law provides reliable guidance and skilled trial advocacy in state and federal qui tam cases. To schedule an appointment with a trustworthy attorney, call 757-215-4818 or contact our Virginia Beach office online.
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