December 30, 2013 — The U.S. government is no stranger to false claims from government contractors. But what can inside employees do to end an employer’s fraudulent claims against the government? When false claims are made, the qui tam provisions of the federal False Claims Act give conscientious tipsters an effective way to tackle the issue head-on by filing suit for the government in federal court. To compensate whistleblowers who have the courage to step forward, the Act gives informants a portion of any recovery the government makes as a result of the lawsuit.
California Cattle Processing Facilities Settle Whistleblower Lawsuit Filed by HSUS Alleging Improper Inspection Practices and Mistreatment of Cows
Several California suppliers of beef to the National School Lunch Program have reached a settlement with the government concerning allegations that the suppliers circumvented inspection of “downer” cattle and made false claims to the government about their eligibility to process beef, the U.S. Justice Department has announced.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) filed a False Claims Act whistleblower lawsuit against the beef suppliers after an HSUS investigator made a videotape showing alleged inhumane handling of the cattle and improper inspection practices concerning disabled cattle, known as “downer cattle.” The alleged abuses took place in Chino, California at the slaughterhouse and meat processing facilities operated by Westland Meat Co. and Hallmark Meat Packing Co. The government joined in the whistleblower lawsuit and additionally alleged that the defendant cattle processing companies were ineligible to process beef because a convicted felon, Aaron “Arnie” Magidow, was involved in the operations, the disclosure of which is required by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations governing suppliers of the National School Lunch Program.
The National School Lunch Program is a meal program partially funded by the federal government. Since 2008, all ground beef that contains meat from the defendants’ processing facilities has been recalled and the defendants do not sell beef to the National School Lunch Program any longer.
The defendants in the lawsuit have agreed to pay substantial amounts to settle the False Claims Act lawsuit. The HSUS, as the whistleblower in the case, will receive around $600,000.
Blowing the Whistle on False Claims by Government Contractors
The whistleblower in this case was HSUS, a large organization. But tipsters are more likely to be industry insiders who often discover False Claims Act violations when they are asked to take part. The whistleblower lawyers with Waters & Kraus have heard many clients describe the intimidation they’ve experienced to remain silent about scams to bilk the government. We’ve worked with many others in your situation. Contact us by email or phone our False Claims Act lawyers at 855.784.0268. With offices in California — where the False Claims Act violations in this case took place — and in Maryland and Texas, we’re here to make the qui tam process easier on you.