The health care fraud, bank/mortgage fraud and securities fraud practitioner should be aware of 18 U.S.C. § 1345, a law which permits the federal government to file a civil action to enjoin the commission or imminent commission of a federal health care offense, bank-mortgage offense, securities offense, and other offenses under Title 18, Chapter 63. Otherwise known as the federal Fraud Injunction Statute, it also authorizes a court to freeze the assets of persons or entities who have obtained property as a result of a past or ongoing federal bank violations, health care violations, securities violations, or other covered federal offenses. This statutory authority to restrain such conduct and to freeze a defendant’s assets is powerful tool in the federal government’s arsenal for combating fraud. Section 1345 has not been widely used by the federal government in the past in connection with its fraud prosecution of health and hospital care, bank-mortgage and securities cases, however, when an action is filed by the government, it can have a tremendous effect on the outcome of such cases. Health and hospital care fraud lawyers, bank and mortgage fraud attorneys, and securities fraud law firms must understand that when a defendant’s assets are frozen, the defendant’s ability to maintain a defense can be fundamentally impaired. The white collar criminal defense attorney should advise his health and hospital care, bank-mortgage and securities clients that parallel civil injunctive proceedings can be brought by federal prosecutors simultaneously with a criminal indictment involving one of the covered offenses. Read more about Tacoma DUI lawyers
Section 1345 authorizes the U.S. Attorney General to commence a civil action in any Federal court to enjoin a person from:
• violating or about to violate 18 U.S.C. §§ 287, 1001, 1341-1351, and 371 (involving a conspiracy to defraud the United States or any agency thereof)
• committing or about to commit a banking law violation, or
• committing or about to commit a Federal health care offense.
Section 1345 further provides that the U.S. Attorney General may obtain an injunction (without bond) or restraining order prohibiting a person from alienating, withdrawing, transferring, removing, dissipating, or disposing property obtained as a result of a banking law violation, securities law violation or a federal healthcare offense or property which is traceable to such violation. The court must proceed immediately to a hearing and determination of any such action, and may enter such a restraining order or prohibition, or take such other action, as is warranted to prevent a continuing and substantial injury to the United States or to any person or class of persons for whose protection the action is brought. Generally, a proceeding under Section 1345 is governed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, except when an indictment has been returned against the defendant, in which such case discovery is governed by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
The government successfully invoked Section 1345 in the federal healthcare fraud case of United States v. Bisig, et al., Civil Action No. 1:00-cv-335-JDT-WTL (S.D.In.). The case was initiated as a qui tam by a Relator, FDSI, which was a private company engaged in the detection and prosecution of false and improper billing practices involving Medicaid. FDSI was hired by the State of Indiana and given access to Indiana’s Medicaid billing database. After investigating co-defendant Home Pharm, FDSI filed a qui tam action in February, 2000, pursuant to the civil False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729, et seq. The government soon joined FDSI’s investigation of Home Pharm and Ms. Bisig, and, in January, 2001, the United States filed an action under 18 U.S.C. § 1345 to enjoin the ongoing criminal fraud and to freeze the assets of Home Pharm and Peggy and Philip Bisig. In 2002, an indictment was returned against Ms. Bisig and Home Pharm. In March, 2003, a superseding indictment was filed in the criminal prosecution charging Ms. Bisig and/or Home Pharm with four counts of violating 18 U.S.C. § 1347, one count of Unlawful Payment of Kickbacks in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7b(b)(2)(A), and one count of mail fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341. The superseding indictment also asserted a criminal forfeiture allegation that certain property of Ms. Bisig and Home Pharm was subject to forfeiture to the United States pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 982(a)(7). Pursuant to her guilty plea agreement, Ms. Bisig agreed to forfeit various pieces of real and personal property that were acquired by her personally during her scheme, as well as the assets of Home Pharm. The United States seized about $265,000 from the injunctive action and recovered about $916,000 in property forfeited in the criminal action. The court held that the relator could participate in the proceeds of the recovered assets because the relator’s rights in the forfeiture proceedings were governed by 31 U.S.C. § 3730(c)(5), which provides that a relator maintains the “same rights” in an alternate proceeding as it would have had in the qui tam proceeding.
A key issue when Section 1345 is invoked is the scope of the assets which may be frozen. Under § 1345(a)(2), the property or proceeds of a fraudulent federal healthcare offense, bank offense or securities offense must be “traceable to such violation” in order to be frozen. United States v. DBB, Inc., 180 F.3d 1277, 1280-1281 (11th Cir. 1999); United States v. Brown, 988 F.2d 658, 664 (6th Cir. 1993); United States v. Fang, 937 F.Supp. 1186, 1194 (D.Md. 1996) (any assets to be frozen must be traceable to the allegedly illicit activity in some way); United States v. Quadro Corp., 916 F.Supp. 613, 619 (E.D.Tex. 1996) (court may only freeze assets which the government has proven to be related to the alleged scheme). Even though the government may seek treble damages against a defendant pursuant to the civil False Claims Act, the amount of treble damages and civil monetary penalties does not determine the amount of assets which may be frozen. Again, only those proceeds which are traceable to the criminal offense may be frozen under the statute. United States v. Sriram, 147 F.Supp.2d 914 (N.D.Il. 2001).