PORTLAND, Ore. – Billy J. Williams, United States Attorney for the District of Oregon, announced today that the District of Oregon collected $19.1 million in criminal and civil actions in Fiscal Year 2016. Of this amount, $7.5 million was collected in criminal actions and $11.5 million was collected in civil actions.
Additionally, the District of Oregon worked with other U.S. Attorney’s Offices and components of the Department of Justice to collect an additional $306,163 in cases pursued jointly. Finally, the District of Oregon, working with partner agencies and divisions, collected $2.39 million in asset forfeiture actions. Forfeited assets deposited into the Department of Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund are used to restore funds to crime victims and for a variety of law enforcement purposes.
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced on December 14, 2016 that the Justice Department collected nearly $15.4 billion in civil and criminal actions in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2016. These collections represent more than five times the appropriated $2.93 billion budget for the 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices and the main litigating divisions of the Justice Department combined in that same period.
“Every day, the men and women of the Department of Justice work tirelessly to enforce our laws, ensuring that taxpayer dollars are used properly and that the American people are protected from exploitation and abuse,” said Attorney General Lynch. “Today’s announcement is a testament to that work, and it makes clear that our actions deliver a significant return on public investment. I want to thank the prosecutors and trial attorneys who made this year's collections possible, and I want to emphasize that the department remains committed to the well-being of our people and our nation.”
“The District of Oregon’s Asset Recovery and Money Laundering Division is dedicated to holding accountable those who seek to profit from illegal activities across the state and beyond,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “Civil and criminal collections demonstrate the significant return on investment that federal law enforcement programs deliver. In fact, our 2016 collections are nearly twice that of our annual operating budget. I want to thank the hardworking public servants in our Asset Recovery and Money Laundering Division” continued Williams, “for their deep commitment to aggressively pursuing financial compensation for victims of crimes, and for protecting government programs from financial exploitation and abuse.”
The U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, along with the department’s litigating divisions, are responsible for enforcing and collecting civil and criminal debts owed to the U.S. and criminal debts owed to federal crime victims. The law requires defendants to pay restitution to victims of certain federal crimes who have suffered a physical injury or financial loss. While restitution is paid to the victim, criminal fines and felony assessments are paid to the department’s Crime Victims’ Fund, which distributes the funds to state victim compensation and assistance programs.
The District of Oregon Financial Litigation Unit’s (FLU) efforts to collect restitution for victims of crimes involves regular review of a defendant’s changing financial circumstances and ability to pay. When defendants resist efforts to set up a voluntary and reasonable payment schedule, the FLU pursues wage garnishment, bank accounts, and retirement accounts; depositions; and the seizure and sale of real estate that can be applied to the defendant’s debt.
One example of the district’s recent restitution collection efforts was in the case of U.S.v. Carol Landesman, a Gresham, Oregon psychologist who created false invoices to send to a Catholic diocese for counseling services she did not actually provide. The defendant was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $113,770, all of which was paid in full at sentencing. Not all cases result in such swift collections, however, and the FLU often spends years pursuing restitution payments from defendants who attempt to hide assets and evade their obligations to fully repay their victims.
One such example of a case requiring ongoing collection efforts over the past year is in the case of U.S. v. Pavel Tokar, who was sentenced in 2006 for fraud and ordered to pay over $90,000 in restitution. After ten years, the defendant had paid less than $10,000 back to his victims. After reviewing several questionable property transactions and scheduling the defendant’s spouse for a deposition to more fully probe the defendant’s financial circumstances, the defendant paid the remaining $81,000 balance in full to avoid further collection efforts.
The largest civil collections were from affirmative civil enforcement cases, in which the United States recovered government money lost to fraud or other misconduct or collected fines imposed on individuals or corporations for violations of federal health, safety, civil rights or environmental laws. In addition, civil debts were collected on behalf of several federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Internal Revenue Service, Small Business Administration and Department of Education.
The single largest civil collection over the past year came from the office’s resolution of a civil fraud case against Holiday Corporation, which operated senior living facilities throughout the country. The investigation, which was prompted by allegations brought by former employees, revealed improper receipt by Holiday of veteran’s benefit payments for care that was not provided, and for care to ineligible veterans. For example, it revealed that Holiday Corporation had falsified information indicating that veterans were entitled to benefits for assistance with their daily living, when in fact those funds were actually paid to Holiday for rent. The settlement agreement included collection of $8.86 million from Holiday.
In another example of civil collections, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Oregon State Department of Justice worked jointly to resolve both civil and criminal matters against Tran Pharmacy and its owner for billing Medicare and Medicaid for prescriptions that were filled with generic fish oil capsules. As part of the settlement, the defendant paid over $800,000 to federal and state agencies. One final example includes a civil fraud case against Skamania Public Utility District, which was accused of overstating power line miles to the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), thereby causing BPA to provide Skamania with a greater discount on its power costs than Skamania was entitled to receive. As part of its settlement, Skamania paid $725,236 to the government.