United States Files Suit Against The California Rural Indian Health Care Board Inc., For Alleged Violation Of The False Claims Act
SAN FRANCISCO – The United States has filed a complaint against the California Rural Indian Health Care Board Inc., (CRIHB) for allegedly submitting false claims in connection with a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), United States Attorney Melinda Haag announced.
CRIHB, a private non-profit, non-tribal entity, received a three-year, $17.140 million Access to Recovery grant from SAMHSA in 2004. Under the grant, CRIHB was required to administer a program that would provide American Indians and Alaskan Natives in California with alcohol and substance abuse treatment and recovery support services through a choice of service providers. SAMHSA is the component of HHS that is charged with improving, treating and preventing the substance abuse and mental health needs of individuals nationwide.
The lawsuit alleges that the portion of the grant allocated for recovery support services was misspent on ineligible expenses unrelated to treatment or recovery support, such as rent, utilities, mortgage payments and car expenses. Recovery support services, such as sober living housing, are designed to complement the needs of individuals in treatment, or individuals who are committed to recovery based on a substance abuse assessment. The lawsuit further alleges that CRIHB instructed service providers to bypass the required client substance abuse screening and assessments, and that CRIHB allowed expenditures to be made without the required vouchers, or without providing the client a choice of providers to whom to take the voucher, all contrary to the terms of the grant and the governing regulations.
“My office is committed to ensuring that federal grant awards are spent for their intended purposes, and on the individuals who are the true beneficiaries of the grant funds,” U.S. Attorney Haag said.
The complaint alleges that CRIHB’s conduct violated the Federal False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729 to 3733.
The case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gioconda Molinari and Douglas Chang, with the assistance of Paralegal Specialist Tiffani Chiu and Financial Fraud Investigator Mike Zehr.