Settlements Totaling $84,000 Reached with Five Individuals Who Committed Fraud
United States Attorney Randolph J. Seiler announced that five individuals previously convicted of Conspiracy to Commit Theft of Federal Funds, have entered into agreements to pay civil penalties pursuant to the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3733. Regardless of criminal penalties, the FCA imposes civil liability on persons who knowingly submit false claims to obtain federal funds. Pursuant to the FCA, persons who submit a false claim must pay to the United States a civil penalty of not less than $5,500, and not more than $11,000 for each false claim, plus three times the amount of damages which the government sustained.
From May through December 2009, Samone Milk, Heather Garcia, Joe Garcia, Wayne Cortier, and Robert Running Bear took federal funds belonging to the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to which they were not entitled. Using their positions as tribal employees, Milk and Heather Garcia drafted fake invoices for work purportedly completed by contractors then shared the funds with those contractors.
In 2014, restitution of $83,585 (joint and severally) was ordered to be paid to the tribe’s LIHEAP program (criminal case 13CR50130). The FCA civil settlements finalized in March 2016 call for payments over a period of years to the United States as follows:
Samone Milk, $30,000 (monthly payments for 29 years);
Heather Garcia, $20,000 (monthly payments for 18.2 years);
Joe Garcia, $20,000 (monthly payments for 18.2 years);
Wayne Cortier, $10,000 (monthly payments for 8.7 years);
Robert Running Bear, $4,000 (monthly payments for 3.5 years).
The United States Attorney’s Office places a high priority on criminal and civil enforcement in cases involving all types of fraud committed against federal programs, and works with various law enforcement agencies to identify and investigate these matters.
This investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann M. Hoffman prosecuted the criminal case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Cheryl Schrempp DuPris finalized the civil settlements.