The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Whistleblower Center has called upon Attorney General William Barr to establish a special task force to combat fraud in federal spending targeted to fight the Coronavirus pandemic.
Stephen Kohn, a founding partner of Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto LLP, asked Barr in a letter Monday to create a task force at the Justice Department to monitor and investigate False Claims Act allegations related to the Covid-19 outbreak.
“There is a group of people who will profit from disasters illegally, and they’re despicable, but they’re out there,” Kohn told Bloomberg Law.
The letter explained that the qui tam whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act had held fraudsters accountable for “stealing from disaster sites, selling defective body armor to police, and providing deficient healthcare to Medicaid patients.” Similar prosecutions may be needed to protect the public’s health and safety during the Coronavirus crisis.
The whistleblower advocates urged the Attorney General to create a task force with the following mandate:
- Ensure a prompt and aggressive federal response to any allegations of fraud related to the Coronavirus, including fraud that impacts patient care;
- Prioritize the investigation of all Coronavirus cases;
- Prompt prosecution of False Claims Act cases that have merit, holding fraudsters accountable to the fullest extent of the law (both civilly and criminally).
“The False Claim Act’s qui tam whistleblower provision has been the most successful federal law in combating fraud and protecting the health and safety of the American people in federally funded medical programs. The Justice Department must establish a special task force to swiftly investigated and prosecuted qui tam cases,” Kohn added.
Similar task forces or special initiatives have been established in the past by the Department of Justice. For example, on March 3, 2020, the Justice Department announced a National Nursing Home Initiative, targeting abuses at nursing homes and advocating using the False Claims Act to police these abuses.