Government Contractor Fraud
The US government is involved as the purchaser in billions of dollars of contacts at any time. These contracts range from small, one-time service contracts to those involving significant construction projects to highly complex military defense systems such as fighter planes and battleships. We have had experience with both defense systems and service contracts, such as security and landscaping contracts, where fraud or misconduct was involved.
As American taxpayers who ultimately fund these projects, we expect that our government will get the best deal possible for expenditures. While individuals and companies supplying services and fulfilling projects deserve to make a fair profit, we are entitled to fair dealing without overpayment, fraud, or other deceptive and illegal practices.
As a Seattle government contracts fraud lawyer, I help whistleblowers initiate action on behalf of the US government against those engaged in defrauding the federal government. In many instances, those exposing fraud (“whistleblowers” or “relators”) may be entitled to significant compensation so long as they did not participate in the fraudulent conduct.
If you are aware of a fraudulent practice against the federal government, please call me for a free consult to learn about your options for exposing such wrongful and illegal conduct.
How Does Government Contract Fraud Occur?
Fraudulent government contract fraud often involves:
- Bid Rigging. Bid rigging can involve many types of schemes, for example potential contractors could agree that one contractor will provide the best bid so that it will be chosen as the winner. The contractor chosen to win will normally submit a higher-than-expected bid (and thus receive additional profits), while the other participating contractors will submit even higher bids (knowing that they will lose). Bid rigging schemes normally allow each of the participants their “turn” to win, or the winner may hire the other “losing” contractors as sub-contractors on the project, and pay them more than they otherwise might make if they won.
- Falsifying Contract Proposal Information. When hiring a contractor, we deserve to know accurate information about the contractor’s experience and how they will be providing services. In some instances, contract proposal information is deliberately falsified in order to get a winning bid.
- Private Use of Federal Funds. When federal funds are paid under a contract, the contractor normally is not entitled to use items such as equipment purchased by the government for non-governmental work.
- Falsifying Invoices. Invoice falsification can involve matters such as deliberately overbilling by inflating the time that was spent to perform services, billing for services that were never performed, or billing for expenditures for items or services that were never purchased.
- Performance Matter Falsification. A government contract, for example, may require two inch solid steel plates to be built into the floors of military vehicles to protect against roadside bombs in a conflict zone. If the contractor used half-inch non-steel plates and then certified that the contract was completed per the specifications, this would constitute government contractor fraud (and it may also lead to criminal liability).
- Project Status Misrepresentation. The government is entitled to know the status of a project at any time, particularly when the release of funds is dependent upon certain stages being completed. Intentional misrepresentation of project status is fraudulent.
- Data Falsification. Many government contracts (particularly military contracts) are dependent upon certain targets being achieved (such as the ability of a missile to precisely hit a target). When data is falsified, this constitutes not only fraud, but may also lead to criminal charges.
- Charging Higher Rates or Billing for Items that are Not Part of a Contract. Big contracts often lead to a temptation to charge higher rates on an invoice, or to bill for items that are not part of a contract, based on an assumption that these “mistakes” will not be caught. Engaging in deliberate overbilling or for items that are not part of a contract is fraudulent.
- Insider Influence, Bribes, and Kickbacks. Insider influence can occur when a government official with decision-making power uses that power to award a contract to a family member or friend without disclosing the nature of that relationship. In most cases, when such relationships exist, the government employee should refrain from being part of the decision-making process. Bribes and kickbacks are similar, except that there usually is not a pre-existing “non-work” relationship between the government official and the contractor in the case of a bribe.
- Collusion. Sometimes a bidder, contractor, or provider may have help on the inside, or government oversight may be inadequate to police the fraud. We have seen situations involving changes in pricing after the bid was accepted, but before the government was charged.
- Other terms and conditions. Contractors or government service providers may be required to comply with certain terms, such as a set of criteria for government work, compliance with diversity requirements, criteria for acceptance of bids or loan guarantees, or other conditions that are “material” to the contract and which the government agency requires and considers important. Violations of those terms can constitute fraud.
The items above are only some of the more common instances involving contractor fraud; the range of illegal government fraud matters is nearly limitless. At the heart of government contractor fraud cases is the belief that with so many expenses that are commonly billed as part of major contracts, those who have governmental oversight will simply not pick up on the aspects of an invoice that may be fraudulent. The False Claims Act thus relies upon people who are aware of the fraudulent contracting schemes to “blow the whistle” on fraudulent contractors.
How I Help in Cases of Government Contractor Fraud
If you are aware of a case of government contractor fraud, please call me for a free consultation. I represent government fraud cases on a contingency fee basis, so you will not owe me any fee for my services unless compensation for the government is obtained. In this case, my fee will be based upon a percentage of the compensation recovered, and you will also likely be entitled to a fee based upon exposing government contractor fraud.
During a consultation, I can explain how this process works and the government requirement governing government contractor fraud cases.