British Luxury Knitwear Retailer and CEO Agree to Pay $908,100 to Settle False Claims Act Allegations Concerning Improper Avoidance of Customs Duties
Portland, Maine: United States Attorney Halsey B. Frank announced today that Pure Collection Ltd. (“Pure”) and its CEO, Samantha Harrison (“Harrison”), both of Harrogate, England, have entered into civil settlement agreements with the U.S. under which they will pay a total of $908,100 to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act (“FCA”). The FCA is the government’s primary civil remedy to redress false claims involving government funds.
The settlements resolve allegations that Pure and Harrison improperly avoided U.S. customs duties owed on merchandise shipped from the United Kingdom to U.S. customers, including many customers in Maine. See United States ex rel. Patrick v. Pure Collection Ltd., 2:16-cv-00230-GZS (D. Me.). Generally, U.S. customers owed no customs duties on single shipments of merchandise into the U.S. worth less than $200 (a limit later raised to $800). The complaint alleged that Pure and Harrison improperly evaded customs duties that would have been paid by U.S. customers by breaking up single shipments worth more than those amounts into multiple shipments of lesser value in order to avoid the applicable duties.
The FCA action was originally filed by Andrew Patrick, a citizen of the United Kingdom, under the Act’s whistleblower, or qui tam, provisions that allow private individuals who have knowledge of fraud committed against the government to file lawsuits on the government’s behalf. The FCA permits the government to recover up to three times the amount of damages incurred by the U.S., in addition to civil penalties for each violation. The government may also intervene and file its own lawsuit for damages and penalties, as it did in this case. If the government prevails in the action, the whistleblower, also known as the relator, may receive a share of the recovery. Here, the government will pay the relator, Mr. Patrick, a share of the settlement proceeds.
The government was represented by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maine, the National Courts Section of the Department of Justice, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Pure and Harrison cooperated throughout the investigation.