Civil Chief, Mark Wildasin
The Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office represents the United States and its departments and agencies at both the trial and appellate courts in civil actions filed in the Middle District of Tennessee.
The Civil Division represents the interests of the United States in matters involving affirmative civil enforcement, in which actions are brought to recover monies owed to the federal government, typically under the federal False Claims Act, and which may also seek penalties and injunctive relief for violations of civil rights, health, safety, or environmental laws. The Civil Division also represents the Unites States and its departments and federal agencies in defensive actions involving claims of medical malpractice, employment discrimination and other defensive litigation. Finally, the Civil Division has primary responsibility for handling asset forfeiture by enforcing both civil and criminal forfeiture statutes in support of criminal actions and investigations and for representing the federal government in financial litigation seeking to recover debts owed to the United States.
A further description of the Civil Division’s responsibilities is provided below.
The pursuit of recovery as a result of fraud committed against the United States through affirmative civil enforcement is a top priority of the Civil Division. Matters affirmatively pursued by the Civil Division include actions to recover monies lost due to fraud or other misconduct against the United States and the pursuit of monetary penalties and injunctive relief to address on-going violations of federal laws and to freeze the ill-gotten gains derived from those frauds.
Examples of affirmative civil enforcement actions include:
- Actions seeking recovery from providers of health care goods and services who defraud the federal health programs such as Medicare or Medicaid by overbilling for goods and services or billing for goods and services not rendered, not medically necessary or substandard.
- Actions seeking to recover against federal contractors who defraud the federal government by failing to adhere to certain laws, rules, regulations or contractual provisions in providing goods and services to federal departments and agencies.
- Actions seeking to enjoin individuals and entities that violate anti-discrimination laws through the unlawful denial of equal housing, access, education, employment opportunities or other civil rights laws as a result of discrimination on account of race, religion, gender, national origin and disability.
- Actions to enforce Civil Rights. For example, the office moved to require Rutherford County to provide a certificate of occupancy to the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro so that it would be open for Ramadan services after the Rutherford County Chancery Court had ruled that the County Planning Commission meeting approving the Islamic Center’s site plan violated Tennessee’s Open Meetings Act. The Tennessee Court of Appeals later reversed the lower state court and the Tennessee Supreme Court and United States Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal.
A key component of the affirmative civil enforcement efforts of the Civil Division is the pursuit of recovery under the federal False Claims Act. The Civil Division frequently works with Inspectors General of many agencies to investigate allegations of fraud against the federal government and to litigate actions under the False Claims Act and its whistleblower provisions.
The False Claims Act provides the United States with a cause of action against any person who: (1) presents or causes to be presented, a false or fraudulent claim for money or property against the United States; (2) makes or causes to be made a false statement to get a false claim paid. Liability under the Act is triple the amount of damages suffered by the United States, plus a civil penalty of $5,500 to $11,000 for each violation. The United States may also recover the costs of the civil action. In matters involving affirmative civil enforcement, the Civil Division has had significant success and has obtained ordered recoveries or settlements on behalf of the United States in numerous matters during the past several years. These matters include:
- Settlement in the amount of $9.375 million to resolve allegations under the False Claims Act resulting from a home health company’s submission of false cost reports, which concealed related party relationships.
- Settlement in the amount of $18 million to resolve allegations under the False Claims Act resulting from a diabetic supply company’s improper solicitation of Medicare beneficiaries and improper billings of Medicare for diabetic testing supplies and other products.
- Settlement in the amount of $3.59 million to resolve allegations under the False Claims Act concerning improper billing for ambulance services.
- Settlement in the amount of $9.25 million to resolve allegations under the False Claims Act stemming from improper inflation of the cost of replacement pacemakers and defribulators to the federal health care programs by knowingly failing to grant warranty credits and rebates to hospitals.
- Settlement in the amount of $2 million to settle allegations under the False Claims Act for improper billings for enteral feeding services and supplies to patients in nursing homes that were also billed to the state Medicaid program. The settlement also resolved allegations of wrongful billings to the Medicare program for enteral feeding supplies that were received for free and for billing Medicare for patients who were not eligible for the skilled nursing in-patient benefit.
- Summary judgment entered in favor of the United States as to liability in an action to recover for false claims made as a result of a government contractor’s failure to pay prevailing wages under applicable federal laws.
The Civil Division defends the interests of the United States and its agencies in a wide array of civil suits brought against the federal government or its employees. Defensive cases handled by the Civil Division include actions seeking monetary damages or other relief for personal injury, medical malpractice and employment discrimination. The Civil Division also handles actions for injunctive relief, which challenge a federal agency’s compliance with federal law, suits challenging agency action under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), suits seeking the release of records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Privacy Act, and the defense of government officials sued in their individual capacities. The Civil Division also represents the federal government in commercial litigation cases, such as bankruptcy and foreclosure matters involving the United States as a creditor or lien holder.
The Asset Forfeiture Unit enforces both civil and criminal forfeiture statutes in all areas of criminal activity. One of the primary objectives of the Asset Forfeiture Unit is to take the profit out of crime. Members of the Unit seek to accomplish this goal by tracing the proceeds of criminal activity and recovering them through the forfeiture process. Instrumentalities of crimes are also subject to forfeiture. Forfeited assets are used to fund federal, state, and local law enforcement activities to the extent permitted by federal law, and, similarly, in appropriate cases, to provide full or partial restitution to victims of criminal activity.
The Financial Litigation Unit (FLU) initiates legal proceedings and takes other necessary actions to enforce collection of all federal debts in the Middle District of Tennessee. These debts include criminal fines, criminal restitution orders and civil judgments filed against "judgment debtors," as well as unsecured civil debts referred from a variety of federal agencies. FLU also represents the United States when judgment debtors file bankruptcy proceedings in this district.