On November 15, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans (“Archdiocese of New Orleans”) has agreed to pay more than $1 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act. 

Archdiocese of New Orleans allegedly submitted false claims for payment to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) for the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The DOJ alleged that it did this by knowingly signing certifications for FEMA funding that contained deceptive damage descriptions and repair estimates.

According to the DOJ’s news release, the false claims were made between 2007 and 2013 and were prepared for the Archdiocese of New Orleans by AECOM, A Los Angeles-based engineering company. 

Robert Romero, an AECOM Project Specialist, originally filed the lawsuit under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act. These provisions permit private parties to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims. Private Parties are incentivized by a share in any recovery. The False Claims Act also permits the United States to intervene in such an action, as it did in this case. Litigation against AECOM is ongoing. Archdiocese of New Orleans has agreed to cooperate in that litigation as a term of its settlement. 

“Federal disaster funds are an instrumental component in the effort to assist disaster victims with their recovery,” said the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana. “The favorable resolution of this False Claims Act matter illustrates the collaborative efforts and firm commitment by our federal partners to use all available remedies to address signs of fraud, waste and abuse.”

The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman represent clients of all types and sizes in connection with white-collar criminal investigations and false claims allegations.  If you need assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.