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False Statements and False Claims

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 46 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 2009 Pages: 555-588
Andrea C. Halverson; Eric D. Olson
Date Published
33 pages
This article reviews the three statutes, covered by a single statute from 1863 to 1948, of the U.S. Code that pertain to false statements and false claims.
Sections 287 and 1001 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code (U.S.C.) make it a crime to knowingly make a false claim upon or against the United States or to any department or agency thereof, and to knowingly and willfully make a false statement to the United States or to any department or agency, respectively. In addition, 31 U.S.C. sections 3729-33 provide for the civil prosecution of false claims. The three statutes have similar elements, which allow prosecutors to choose the statute under which they will prosecute fraud cases. The double jeopardy clause of the U.S. Constitution is not violated when defendants are punished under both section 287 and section 1001, because the language of the statutes indicates that Congress intended to create two distinct violations. Although prosecutors may use the statutes interchangeably, some significant differences exist among the three statutes. These differences are noted in the article. In addition to the two criminal statutes, 31 U.S.C. section 3730(b) affords private citizens the option to bring a qui tam civil action on behalf of the government for a violation of section 3729. Suits that are settled or successfully prosecuted under the statute impose civil penalties payable to the U.S. Government and provide for the qui tam plaintiff to receive a portion of the proceeds. One section of the article discusses prosecutions brought under section 1001, the False Statements Act, and another section of the article addresses criminal charges brought under section 287, the False Claims Act. The article’s concluding section focuses on the civil false claims statutes, sections 3729-30. 238 notes