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False Claims

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 36 Issue: 3 Dated: Summer 1999 Pages: 593-606
Frances Lea Turner
Date Published
14 pages
Civil and criminal laws regarding false claims are examined with respect to their content, the elements of an offense under section 287 of Title 18 of the United States Code, the defenses available to an allegation of a false claim, and the enforcement mechanisms of the criminal statute.
Congress enacted the first False Claims Act in 1863 in response to widespread procurement fraud in Civil War defense contracts and to protect government funds and property from fraudulent claims. Under section 287, it is illegal to present a false, fictitious, or fraudulent claim to the Federal Government. The government has used section 287 to prosecute fraudulent Federal tax refunds, Medicare and Medicaid fraud, Social Security fraud, government contract impropriety, fraudulent claims for unperformed services under government programs, and many other fraudulent claims submitted to the Federal Government. The three elements of the offense are that (1) the defendant presented a claim against the United States or any agency or department of the United States; (2) the claim was false, fictitious, or fraudulent; and (3) the defendant knew that the claim was false, fictitious, or fraudulent. The Fourth and Eighth Circuits also consider materiality to be an essential element. The two categories of defenses to a charge of a false claim are (1) intent-based defenses and (2) double jeopardy. Congress has become increasingly active regarding the prosecution of false claims and has added burdens or penalties to persons making false claims. Footnotes