News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Announces Financial Recoveries of Over $81 Million in Eastern Wisconsin and Over $8 Billion Nationwide on Behalf of United States Taxpayers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 9, 2014

United States Attorney James L. Santelle announced today that, in Fiscal Year 2013 (October 1, 2012 – September 30, 2013), the Eastern District of Wisconsin Office collected $9,664,591.85 in civil and criminal cases.  Of this amount, $4,989,276.78 was recovered in criminal actions, and $4,675,315.07 was recovered in civil actions—all on behalf of the citizen-taxpayers nationwide.

Of the total recovered in civil and criminal matters, $350,357.94 was collected through the Treasury Offset Program—a centralized, nationwide program that identifies and offsets amounts from the federal and state income tax refunds of taxpayers who also owe monies to the United States.  Other government-allocated benefits are also subject to collections offsets of this type.

In addition, the Office of the United States Attorney worked in partnership with various litigating divisions of the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. and other Offices of United States Attorneys to collect another $71,380,274.14 in cases initiated and pursued jointly.

Working with partnered law enforcement agencies, offices, and units, the Office of the United States Attorney also recovered $2,989,821.00 in asset forfeiture actions in Fiscal Year 2013.  These forfeited assets are deposited into the United States Department of Justice’s Asset Forfeiture Fund and are used to restore losses suffered by the victims of crime and to support various related types of law enforcement activities and functions.

In Washington, D.C., Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. announced today that the United States Department of Justice collected approximately $8.1 billion in criminal and civil actions during the fiscal year ending on September 30, 2013.  The more than $8 billion in collections in Fiscal Year 2013 represents nearly three times the appropriated $2.76 billion budget for the 94 United States Attorneys’ offices and the main litigating divisions in that same period.

This national total includes all monies collected as a result of Justice Department-led actions and negotiated civil settlements, including payments made directly to the Justice Department and indirect payments made to other federal agencies, states, and other designated recipients.  It necessarily includes some cases that were resolved in prior years but the proceeds of which were collected in Fiscal Year 2013.

“The Department’s enforcement actions help to not only ensure justice is served, but also deliver a valuable return to the taxpayer,” said Attorney General Holder. “It is critical that Congress provide the resources necessary to match the Department’s mounting caseload.  As these figures show, supporting our federal prosecutors is a sound investment.”
 
Joining the Attorney General in these announcements, Santelle commented:  “I am exceptionally proud of the professional, dedicated, and productive work of my staff—including all of our criminal and civil attorneys and our equally stellar professional support personnel—who are collectively responsible for bringing into the coffers of the United States Treasury these dramatically significant sums.  In our daily efforts to enforce the many civil and the criminal judgments entered in favor of the United States of America, we are aggressive yet even-handed, purposeful yet fair, and creative yet balanced in meeting one of our principal missions—that is, collecting monies due and owing to the federal government on behalf of the citizen constituents that we serve.”

Santelle continued: “The people of the Eastern District of Wisconsin should know that, in Fiscal Year 2013, just recently concluded, the total operational budget for our office was approximately $8 millionToday’s announcement confirms that, during that same time period, we recovered approximately 10 times that amount in local and shared matters—confirming that our partnered, governmental operation is strikingly efficient, demonstrably potent, and genuinely cost-effective.  I recognize especially the outstanding efforts of our Financial Litigation Unit, our Asset Forfeiture Unit, and our industrious colleagues in the many federal agencies, both civil and criminal, that we represent here in Eastern Wisconsin for this exceptional accomplishment.”

The Offices of the United States Attorneys, along with the litigating divisions of the United States Department of Justice, are responsible for enforcing and collecting civil and criminal debts of many kinds that are owed to the United States of America and that are due to the victims of various types of federal crimes.  The federal law contemplates that defendants convicted of those crimes pay restitution to those victims who have suffered physical injuries or financial losses.  While restitution is paid to the victims, criminal fines and related assessments are paid to the United States Department of Justice’s Crime Victims Fund, which distributes monies to state victim compensation and victim assistance programs.

As one example of a significant recovery in a criminal matter, Santelle described a case in which the defendant, Craig Kelly, had embezzled well over $1 million from his employer.  “Through that prosecution,” Santelle explained, “our office collected $1,039,881.00, which was used to satisfy a substantial percentage of the restitution due and owing to the defendant’s former employer.  Working in close and effective partnership with the United States Secret Service, the legal staff of our Asset Forfeiture Unit recovered those monies by tracing proceeds of the embezzlement scheme to valuable assets—including the defendant’s residence, retirement accounts, life-insurance policies, boat, wine collection, and timeshare interests.  The United States then forfeited those assets and turned over the resulting proceeds to the victim-former employer.”

Nationwide and locally, the largest civil collections amounts result from the litigation of affirmative enforcement actions, through which the Offices of the United States Attorneys and the United States Department of Justice recover federal dollars lost to fraud or other types of misconduct; these sums also include fines imposed on individuals and corporations for their proven violations of federal health, safety, civil rights, environmental, and other program-type laws.  These civil monetary obligations are enforced by the United States Attorneys and their staffs on behalf of many federal agencies—including but not limited to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, the United States Department of Education, the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States Department of the Treasury (including the Internal Revenue Service), and the United States Small Business Administration.

 As one of the notable examples of significant recoveries in the affirmative enforcement mission of his office, Santelle described the successful action against national hardware distributor W.W. Grainger, Inc. (“Grainger”) that paid $70 million following an investigation of false claims made in connection with contracts with the General Services Administration (“GSA”) and the United States Postal Service (“USPS”).  “The settlement in that matter focused on a contract entered into by the Lake Forest, Illinois-based company to sell hardware products to government customers through the GSA’s Multiple Award Schedule (“MAS”) program,” Santelle reported.  “The resolution of the claims disposed of issues identified during a GSA post-award audit of Grainger’s MAS contract.  Like many of our affirmative enforcement cases, this settlement was the product of highly coordinated, effectively pursued efforts among the Commercial Litigation Branch (Civil Division of the United States Department of Justice), the Office of the Inspector General of the GSA, the Offices of the Inspector General and of the General Counsel of the USPS, and the Civil Division in our office here in Eastern Wisconsin.”

For further information about the information and commentary in this release, please contact Public Information Officer Dean Puschnig, Office of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, at (414) 297-1700 or at dean.puschnig@ usdoj.gov.

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