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Florida Qui Tam Actions: Illegal Activities and Penalties Arising Under the Florida False Claims Act

Litigation

The Florida False Claims Act (FFCA), Florida Statutes §68.081 – §68.092, is modeled after the federal False Claims Act that helps people sue and recover from fraudulent activity committed against Florida state government entities. The FFCA allows a whistleblower (also called a “relator”) to file a qui tam whistleblower lawsuit if they are aware of any violations of the act. The FFCA will impose liability on corporations or persons who purposely and knowingly present false or fraudulent claims to the State of Florida for payment, avoid or deceptively conceal payment obligations or kickback arrangements, or misappropriate Florida property.

Originally, the definition of “state” under the FFCA was more narrowly construed to be limited to executive agencies of the Florida government. Since then, there have been amendments under the FFCA so that “state” now has a broader definition that encompasses other parts of Florida’s government.

Illegal Acts Arising Under FFCA

The FFCA prohibits companies and individuals who conduct business in the state from engaging in a variety of fraudulent behaviors, including:

  • Purposely or knowingly presenting a fraudulent or false claim for approval or payment;
  • Knowingly using or making false statements or records that are material to an obligation to pay or transmit property or money to a state agency;
  • Purposely using or making a false record or statement that is material to a fraudulent or false claim;
  • Knowingly concealing or purposely avoiding or decreasing an obligation to transmit or pay money or property to the state; or
  • Conspiring to do any of the aforementioned.

It’s important to point out that making a false claim doesn’t have to be directly against the government. Other situations are also covered under the FFCA , like a subcontractor who willfully presents a false claim to a general contractor, knowing that the contractor is receiving state funds for the job. A subcontractor can also violate the FFCA by intending to defraud the general contractor who he or she knows is on a government contract.

Essentially, the fraud doesn’t have to be perpetrated directly on the State of Florida; it can be on someone who is being paid with government funds.

Civil Actions Arising Under FFCA

The State of Florida will investigate any alleged violations, and if the department finds there is something worth pursuing, they will bring a civil action under FFCA against the perpetrator. Individuals can bring a civil lawsuit for violations of §68.082 for the individual and related agency.

If the State of Florida intervenes to pursue the case on its own behalf, the whistleblower may be eligible to receive a “relator’s share” of anywhere between 15% and 25% of the award, depending on his or her role in the action. If the State of Florida opts not to intervene, the individual can still pursue the matter and can receive up to 25-30% of the applicable award.

A defendant can be responsible to the State of Florida for a statutory fine (to which the whistleblower does not participate financially) between $5,500 and $11,000 per violation. This is in addition to a claim for three times the amount of damages the defendant has caused the State of Florida (to which the whistleblower participates financially).

Retaining a Florida Whistleblower Attorney

Whistleblower actions are complex, and it’s important to speak with an experienced Florida whistleblower attorney early on. You need to ensure you have enough information and that you follow all the procedures to ensure you are protected against retaliation. Contact McCabe Rabin, P.A. at 561-659-7878 to schedule a consultation. We specialize in federal and state whistleblower actions. Let one of our skilled qui tam attorneys help you build a strong whistleblower case.

Resource:

leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0000-0099/0068/0068.html

https://www.mccaberabin.com/the-importance-of-whistleblowers-to-help-detect-crime-and-fraud/

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