WASHINGTON, D.C. - Office Depot, Inc. has paid the United States $4.75 million to settle allegations that it submitted false claims when it sold office supply products manufactured in countries not permitted by the Trade Agreements Act to United States government agencies, the Department of Justice announced today.
The settlement resolves allegations that the Delray Beach, Florida-based company sold products from countries, such as China and Taiwan, that do not have reciprocal trade agreements with the U.S. Office Depot was required by its contract with the General Services Administration (GSA) to prevent such items from being offered for sale to U.S. government agencies.
"Federal contractors will be held accountable for their billing practices," said Peter D. Keisler, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice's Civil Division. "This settlement is an example of the Department's determination to ensure that federal funds are protected from fraud and abuse."
This case was filed in January 2003 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act by Safina Office Products and two of its executives, Edward Wilder and Robert Hsi Chou Lee. Safina, Wilder and Roberts will collectively receive $712,500 of the total recovery as their statutory award. Under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, private parties can file an action on behalf of the United States and receive a portion of the proceeds of a settlement or judgment awarded against a defendant.
The settlement resulted from an investigation by the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, and the GSA's Office of the Inspector General. In May 2005, the Department of Justice reached a $9.8 million settlement with Office Max, Inc. based on the same allegations.