Pam Bondi: Legislative Priority to Protect Taxpayers' Money from False Claims Against Government

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has announced that one of her top priorities for the 2013 legislative session is a bill that will enhance the state's False Claims Act and better protect taxpayers from false or fraudulent claims seeking money from the government.

In a press release, she thanked Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, and Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, for sponsoring SB 1494 and HB 935 respectively, which would strengthen her office’s ability to protect taxpayers by enhancing its investigative and prosecutorial authority, including giving the office the power to issue subpoenas in non-Medicaid cases.

“Expanding our subpoena power and updating this important law will allow us to better protect taxpayers’ hard-earned money by stopping unscrupulous individuals or companies that seek to defraud the government,” Bondi said.

"Providing the attorney general’s office with the needed investigative tools is essential to protecting taxpayers from the increasing costs of fraud,” Thrasher is quoted in the release.

“This legislation demonstrates Florida’s continued commitment to preventing fraud against the government. With this bill, we will give the attorney general's office the power they need to find those who seek to defraud taxpayers and hold them accountable,” Young is quoted.

The Florida False Claims Act authorizes a private person or “relator” who claims to have knowledge of fraud involving public funds to bring a sealed “qui tam” case on the state’s behalf. The attorney general’s office then has the opportunity to investigate the allegations, gather additional information, and intervene in and proceed with the case if appropriate.

While “qui tam” complaints are routinely brought in Medicaid cases, reports of non-Medicaid fraud against the state are increasing, according to Bondi's release. These cases can include any individual or company that engages in business with the state of Florida and knowingly scams the state by inflating prices or otherwise obtaining unwarranted payments. Bondi's office says the legislation would be the first significant enhancement to the Act since its passage nearly two decades ago and would provide the office with the necessary tools to independently verify the fraud allegations and make an informed decision on pursuing a "qui tam" case.

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