WASHINGTON, D.C. — Corporate Express Office Products has paid the United States $5.02 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 Justice Department announced today.
The settlement resolves allegations that the Colorado-based company sold products from countries that do not have reciprocal trade agreements with the U.S., such as China and Taiwan. Corporate Express 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 violations of procurement regulations,” said Peter D. Keisler, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division. “This settlement is an example of the Justice Department’s determination to ensure that federal funds are protected from fraud and abuse.”
This case was filed 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, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in January 2003. Safina, Wilder and Lee will collectively receive approximately $753,000 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.
“We are committed to ensuring that federal contractors abide by the terms of their contracts and not violate U.S. trade regulations,” added U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Wainstein.
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 2005, the Department of Justice reached a $9.8 million settlement with Office Max, Inc.; a $4.75 million settlement with Office Depot, Inc.; a $7.4 million settlement with Staples Contract and Commercial, Inc.; and a $100,000 settlement with Caddo Design based on the same allegations.
The case is entitled U.S. ex rel. Safina Office Prods., et al. v. Office Depot, et al., Civil Action No. 03-0003 (RMC) (D.D.C.)