Affirmative Civil Enforcement
Overview of the Affirmative Civil Enforcement Section
Affirmative Civil Enforcement (ACE) is a priority of the Department of Justice.
ACE IS . . .
ACE is the United States Department of Justice's program by which civil actions are filed by the United States:
- to recover money lost due to fraud and other misconduct against the United States government;
- to impose civil penalties for violations of the nation's health, safety, and economic welfare laws, including the Controlled Substances Act;
- to enforce federal civil rights and environmental laws; and
- to use the federal Fraud Injunction Statute to enjoin on-going mail, wire, or bank frauds and freeze ill-gotten gains derived from those frauds.
ACE programs throughout the nation have recovered millions of dollars for the United States. Some examples include: $209.3 million recovered from companies to resolve allegations that the companies were promoting Suboxone, the opioid-addiction-treatment drug, to physicians for uses that were not medically accepted and when the Suboxone was often diverted; $90 million from a company to resolve allegations that it knowingly submitted unsupported diagnosis codes for certain patient encounters that resulted in inflated payment to be made to the Medicare Advantage Plans; $38.75 million from companies to resolve allegations of billing for unnecessary medical services by billing for defective rapid point-of-care testing devices; and $50 million from a company to resolve allegations that it fraudulently induced the United States Marine Corps to enter into a contract modification at inflated prices.
The District of South Carolina began an ACE Section in August of 1996 and has actively pursued ACE cases ever since. Since 2017, the ACE Section has obtained judgments or settlements totaling over $500 million for the United States, to include default judgments in the amount of $149 million from a set of pain management clinics and laboratories to resolve allegations that they paid unlawful kickbacks to providers to induce their referrals of urine drug tests. Additionally, our district is one of the few districts to have taken a False Claims Act case successfully to jury verdict. This district is very interested in pursuing the ACE aspect of any case in which there has been a false or fraudulent claim against, or a fraudulent statement made to, the United States or violations of the Controlled Substances Act, the federal civil rights laws, or the federal environmental laws.
False Claims Act
We pursue these cases under the Civil False Claims Act which 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 or approved; (3) or conspires to defraud the government by getting a false claim paid. Liability under the Act is triple the amount of actual damages suffered by the United States, plus a "civil penalty" ranging from $13,408 to $27,018 (inflation adjustment) for each violation. The government may also recover the costs of the civil action.
In 1986, Congress strengthened the act by increasing incentives for whistleblowers to file lawsuits alleging false claims on behalf of the government. These whistleblower, or qui tam, actions comprise a significant percentage of the False Claims Act cases that are filed. If the government prevails in a qui tam action, the whistleblower, also known as the relator, typically receives a portion of the recovery ranging between 15% and 30%. Whistleblowers filed 598 qui tam suits in the United States in fiscal year 2021, and this past year the department reported settlements and judgments exceeding $1.6 billion in these and earlier-filed suits.
You may report suspected fraud by contacting the District’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Coordinator, Assistant U.S. Attorney Beth Warren, at (803) 929-3000 or USASC.CivilFraud@usdoj.gov.
Controlled Substances Act
We enforce the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). A main objective of the CSA is controlling illegitimate traffic of controlled substances. To prevent the diversion of controlled substances, the CSA regulates persons, companies, and other entities that manufacture, distribute, and dispense controlled substances. While also ensuring that patients have access to pharmaceutical controlled substances for legitimate medical purposes, the law aims to protect public health and safety from the dangers posed by highly addictive or dangerous controlled substances, including the diversion or improper use of such substances.
We are committed to protecting the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans, particularly the most vulnerable members of our society. The United States Attorney’s Office enforces federal statutes and executive orders prohibiting discrimination on the bases of race, color, sex, disability (mental and physical), religion, age, national origin, protected genetic information, gender identity, sexual orientation, and retaliation. We also enforce other laws that protect service members, veterans, voting rights, prisoner rights, and educational opportunities. The United States Attorney’s Office also enforces criminal laws regarding hate crimes, police misconduct, and human trafficking.
We are committed to enforcing the Nation’s civil environmental laws and work closely with the Environmental and Natural Resources Division to bring civil judicial actions under most federal laws enacted to protect public health and the environment from the adverse effects of pollution, such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Oil Pollution Act, and the Superfund law (CERCLA).