Government Contract Fraud Defense Lawyer
Under 18 U.S.C. § 1001, False Statements to the Government are punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years.
Government contract fraud is often charged against defense contractors, but may arise from any contract for providing goods or services to the federal government. The attorneys at the Oberheiden, P.C. have significant experience defending clients against fraud and False Claims Act charges.
Government Contract Fraud Explained
While there are numerous federal statutes that are designed to punish individuals and businesses for fraudulent conduct, there are two in particular that are typically involved in cases involving government contracts. As with most fraud statutes, these laws are extremely broad, giving prosecutors significant leeway to craft federal criminal charges.
18 U.S.C. Section 1001
The first statute is 18 U.S.C. Section 1001. Under 18 U.S.C. Section 1001, a government contractor can be charged with fraud if, “in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States,” it:
- Falsifies or conceals a material fact;
- Makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement; or,
- Makes use of a document knowing that it contains false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations.
An important caveat is that, in order to obtain a conviction, the prosecutor must show that the government contractor “knowingly and willfully” made the false representation. In other words, if you accidentally make an incorrect statement, you should not be charged under Section 1001. Unfortunately, this requirement often does not prevent prosecutors from bringing charges against innocent government contractors, who are left to raise doubt about the prosecutor’s allegations in court.
The False Claims Act
The second statute that the government uses to bring charges for government contractor fraud is the False Claims Act. As its name suggests, the False Claims Act imposes criminal penalties for contractors who submit false claims for payment to the federal government. Contractors charged under Section 18 U.S.C. Section 1001 or the False Claims Act are likely to face additional charges such as mail or wire fraud as well.
Common Forms of Government Contract Fraud
In light of the breadth of 18 U.S.C. Section 1001 and the False Claims Act, numerous activities can be construed as government contract fraud. Some common examples include:
The U.S. government purchases goods and services from private contractors through the process known as “procurement.” In most cases, this process involves soliciting competitive bids in order to identify the best quality and lowest price offer available. Procurement fraud may involve:
- Misrepresenting the contractor’s qualifications or experience
- Making false statements in a contract bid
- Using bribery to win a government contract
- Providing kickbacks
- Delivering inferior-quality goods and other forms of product substitution
- Failing to conduct required testing or inspections
- Inflating materials costs
- Charging hire labor rates than are specified in a government contract
- Charging for incomplete work or services not provided
- Overbilling for goods or services
Contract Compliance Fraud
Many government contracts will require the contractor to certify that it is in compliance with certain statutory or regulatory standards. In addition, government contracts will typically require goods or services to meet federal standards. Making a false certification in a bid or providing non-compliant goods or services can lead to charges of government contract fraud.
Cross-charging involves billing for goods or services provided pursuant to one contract under the payment terms of another. This most frequently occurs when a government contractor has multiple contracts, one of which is at a fixed price, and the other of which is a “cost-plus” or time and materials contract. Charging time spent under a fixed price contract to a variable cost contract effectively double-billing for the same services is a form of government contract fraud.
Defending Against Government Contract Fraud Charges
As experienced criminal defense attorneys and former federal prosecutors, we are familiar with the government’s strategies for pursuing charges against government contractors. We can use this knowledge to your advantage to fight the allegations against you.
Penalties for Government Contract Fraud Crimes
Contractors convicted under 18 U.S.C. Section 1001 can face fines and up to five years in federal prison. Violators can of the False Claims Act face restitution of three times the amount of the government’s damages, plus fines of up to $11,000 for each individual claim. Most states have laws that are comparable to the False Claims Act. In addition, state contractors can face charges for overbilling and other forms of fraud. Some state laws impose prison time in addition to restitution and fines.
Speak with a Government Contract Fraud Lawyer Today
If you are facing charges or believe you may be under investigation for government contract fraud, we encourage you to contact us right away. Our lawyers fight vigorously to protect our clients, and our goal in every case is to have our client’s charges dismissed. To schedule a free, confidential case evaluation, call (888) 727-0472 or contact us online today.
Dr. Nick Oberheiden is a national litigation and trial criminal defense attorney who practices exclusively in the area of federal law.