A Florida-based duct cleaning company has agreed to pay $ 30,000 in civil damages to settle allegations that it obtained more than one loan from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), in violation of the law on false claims.
According to an Oct. 28 press release from the Department of Justice (DOJ), Sextant Marine Consulting LLC (Sextant) “also repaid all of the duplicate PPP funds to its lender,” which relieved the Small Business Administration ( SBA) âof its liability to the lender. for the federal guarantee of approximately $ 170,000 on the inappropriate loan.
The PPP is part of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) law, which was enacted on March 27, 2020. The PPP was intended to “provide emergency financial support to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects. Caused by the pandemic, explains the press release of the DOJ. The law distributed “billions of dollars in forgivable loans” to small businesses, and loan applicants “were required to certify that they would not receive more than one PPP loan before December 31, 2020”. According to the press release, “this settlement resolves allegations that Sextant requested and received a second duplicate PPP loan in 2020”.
The settlement “includes the resolution of a claim made under the qui tam or the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act. The whistleblower, J. Bryan Quesenberry, will receive $ 4,500 for his disclosures. According to the Department of Justice, â[t]The case remains under seal over allegations against entities other than Sextant.
Under the Misrepresentation Act qui tam provisions, individuals can sue on behalf of the government and “receive a portion of the total money recovered as a reward for the risk and damage they assume in doing so.” WNN Reporting States. In all qui tam In this case, the government has the option of taking charge of the case and deploying its resources to pursue the litigation.
“The PPP loans were intended to provide critical relief to small businesses so that they can retain their employees and keep their doors open,” said Acting Deputy Attorney General Brian M. Boynton of the Civil Division of the Department of Justice in the press release. “We will ensure that those who improperly obtain federally guaranteed P3 loans are held accountable.”
“The Paycheck Protection Program is intended to provide a lifeline for small businesses across the country and its employees,” said Inspector General Hannibal “Mike” Ware of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the SBA. âThe OIG will aggressively investigate allegations of wrongdoing in the SBA’s pandemic response programs. I would like to thank the Department of Justice for its commitment to achieving this settlement.
“The settlement in this case demonstrates the excellent results achieved through the combined efforts of the SBA and the Department of Justice to uncover and forcefully respond to paycheck protection program fraud,” said General Counsel Peggy Delinois Hamilton of the SBA General Counsel’s Office. âThe SBA is strongly committed to identifying and aggressively prosecuting cases of fraud perpetrated by those who benefit from the SBA’s COVID-19 assistance programs. “
The end of the press release mentions the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which Attorney General Merrick Garland established on May 17. The task force aims to tackle COVID-19 fraud and includes several entities of DOJ, as well as other partner government agencies like the Ministry of Labor, Small Business Administration, Ministry of the Treasury.
In a note announcing the task force, Garland said the DOJ will “use all available federal tools, including criminal, civil and administrative actions, to combat and prevent fraud related to COVID-19.” We look forward to working with our colleagues in the federal government to bring to justice those who seek to illegally profit from the pandemic. “
DOJ’s press release on Sextant’s settlement reminds the public how to report “potential fraud affecting government COVID-19 relief programs.” Individuals can learn more about reporting federal fraud here, and “[a]Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can also report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Enforcement (NCDF) hotline at 866 -720-5721 or via the NCDF web complaint form at: https: // www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
Read the DOJ press release here.
Read more Misrepresentation Law /qui tam news on WNN.
Read more news on COVID-19 whistleblowers on WNN.