False statements and false claims.

AuthorCoyle, Jordan L.
PositionTwenty-First Annual Survey of White Collar Crime
  1. INTRODUCTION II. FALSE STATEMENTS A. Elements of a [section] 1001 Offense 1. Statements or Concealments 2. Falsity 3. Materiality 4. Intent 5. Jurisdiction B. [section] 1001 Defenses 1. Exculpatory "No". 2. Ambiguity 3. Double Jeopardy 4. Other Defenses C. Sentencing under [section] 1001 III. FALSE CLAIMS A. Elements of a [section] 287 Offense 1. Presentation of a Claim 2. False, Fictitious, or Fraudulent Claims 3. Knowledge 4. Materiality B. [section] 287 Defenses 1. Intent-Based Defenses 2. Double Jeopardy C. [section] 287 Enforcement 1. Enforcement Provisions 2. Sentencing IV. CIVIL PROSECUTIONS UNDER 31 U.S.C. [subsection] 3729-3733 I. INTRODUCTION

    Sections 287 and 1001 of Title 18 of the United States Code are statutes that make it a crime to (1) knowingly make a false claim upon or against the United States or to any department or agency thereof (1) and to (2) knowingly and willfully make a false statement to the United States or to any department or agency thereof, (2) respectively. In addition, 31 U.S.C. [subsection] 3729-33 provides for the civil prosecution of false claims. (3) The three statutes, covered by a single statute from 1863 to 1948, contain very similar elements. (4) Often, this grants prosecutors the ability to choose the statute under which they desire to prosecute cases of fraud. (5) In some instances, it does not constitute a violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause to punish defendants under both [section] 287 and [section] 1001 because the language of the statutes demonstrates Congress intended to create two distinct violations. (6)

    While prosecutors may use the statutes interchangeably, some significant differences do exist among the three statutes. For example, while materiality is an element of all three [section] 1001 offenses, (7) the circuits are split on whether materiality is an element of [section] 287. (8) In addition, [section] 1001 requires that the prosecutor prove the defendant both knowingly and willfully lied to the government. (9) However, the circuits are divided on the intent requirement for [section] 287. (10)

    In addition to the two criminal statutes, 31 U.S.C. [section] 3730(b) affords private citizens the ability to bring a qui tam civil action on behalf of the government for a violation of [section] 3729. (11) Suits that are settled or successfully prosecuted under this statute impose civil penalties payable to the U.S. government and provide for the qui tam plaintiff to receive a portion of the proceeds. (12)

    There are tactical reasons why a prosecutor chooses to use one statute over another. For example, the Department of Justice ("DOJ") advises its attorneys to pursue cases under [section] 287 rather than under [section] 1001 whenever possible, in order to enhance the government's ability to favorably use estoppel doctrines in subsequent civil suits. (13) Section II of this article discusses prosecutions brought under [section] 1001, the false statements statute. Section III of this article addresses criminal charges brought under [section] 287, the false statements statute. Finally, Section IV addresses the civil false claims statutes.


    Section 1001 of Title 18 of the United States Code (14) is a broad and frequently used (15) statute that criminalizes the act of making false statements to the United States government. Title 18 also contains several more specific false statement statutes, including [section] 1014, which criminalizes false statements to influence loan and credit applications, (16) and [section] 1027, which criminalizes false statements related to Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) documents. (17) However, prosecutors use [section] 1001 most often because they can enforce it either alone or in tandem with more specific statutes, such as [section] 287. (18) Also, it is used frequently because of the comparative malleability of its elements. (19)

    During the last decade, the government has used [section] 1001 to prosecute a wide variety of crimes. (20) Although high profile [section] 1001 prosecutions during the Clinton administration raised criticism regarding the level of discretion that the statute provided prosecutors, (21) [section] 1001 has continued to evolve. Government scrutiny of federal service providers has also increased, leading to convictions of health care executives who overbilled the government for health services. (22) Recent convictions, such as those of Martha Stewart and of Peter Bacanovic, have increased awareness in the corporate sphere of the consequences of lying to the government. (23) Additionally, the convictions of Soliman S. Biheiri and Faisal M. A1 Salmi under [section] 1001 demonstrate that the government is now using the statute to prosecute suspected terrorists. (24) In fact, Congress recently amended the statute to enhance the penalties available if the offense involves terrorism. (25) Congress is considering another amendment that would impose a minimum 5-year prison sentence if the offense involves the failure of a convicted sex offender to register under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act. (26)

    Section 1001 covers offenses spanning three broad categories: (i) falsifying, concealing, or otherwise covering-up a material fact by any trick, scheme, or device; (ii) making materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations; and (iii) making or using a writing or document with knowledge that such document contains materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements. The last category, which is rarely prosecuted, criminalizes the use of a writing or a document to give: (i) false information for the purpose of receiving a monetary or proprietary benefit; (27) (ii) false information in order to resist monetary claims by the United States; (28) (iii) false information to pursue a governmental privilege, such as employment or a security clearance; (29) and (iv) false information to frustrate lawful regulation. (30)

    Part A of this section describes the five elements of a false statement offense under [section] 1001. Part B discusses several defenses to a charge under [section] 1001. Part C explains the sanctions for this offense.

    1. Elements of a section] 1001 Offense

      To convict a defendant under [section] 1001, the government must prove five elements: (i) the defendant made a statement or concealment; (ii) the statement was false; (iii) the statement or concealment was material; (iv) the statement or concealment was made "knowingly and willfully"; and (v) the statement or concealment falls within executive, legislative, or judicial branch jurisdiction. (31)

      1. Statements or Concealments

        Section 1001 covers all statements, whether oral or written, sworn or unsworn, voluntary or required by law. (32) Such statements include: false invoices and certifications, (33) checks naming false drawees, (34) false applications to obtain official documents, (35) false identifications given to border (36) or customs agents, (37) false Medicare claims, (38) false marriage vows given to gain citizenship, (39) false information given to federal investigators, (40) and a variety of false statements made to other governmental entities. (41) Section 1001 can also extend to affirmative acts of concealment even where no actual statement has been made. (42) Concealing information with intent to deceive the government is covered by [section] 1001, as is concealing information with the intent to cause another to violate his duty to disclose. (43) Affirmative acts include both nondisclosures and misrepresentations of material facts. (44) In addition, silence may constitute a false statement under [section] 1001 when it serves to mislead or when the individual has a duty to speak. (45)

      2. Falsity

        Falsity, the cornerstone of a [section] 1001 offense, can be established by either an affirmative false representation or by the concealment of a material fact. (46) TO prove the falsity element, the government must show a non-disclosure of a fact through a "trick, scheme, or device." (47) However, where an affirmative representation is made, no trick, scheme, or device must be proved. (48) A statement may be considered false for [section] 1001 purposes even though it is "literally true" if it misleads federal agents. (49)

        Courts disagree on whether [section] 1001 imposes a general duty to be honest and forthcoming, or whether an independent statute must explicitly or implicitly impose a specific duty. Several circuits have noted that [section] 1001 is a "catch-all" provision that imposes a general duty to be forthcoming even if the misrepresentation is not specifically prohibited by statute. (50) However, the Second, Third, Seventh, and Eleventh Circuits have required the government to prove that the defendant had a specific legal duty to disclose the material facts allegedly concealed. (51)

        The issue of whether or not there is a duty frequently arises in the context of the reporting requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. (52) This issue also arises under the Currency Transaction Report Act ("CTRA"), (53) which requires domestic financial institutions to file currency transaction reports ("CTRs") describing transactions and identifying parties who transfer United States currency. (54)

      3. Materiality

        In an attempt to resolve a conflict among the circuit courts, Congress amended [section] 1001 in 1996 to extend the applicability of the materiality element of [section] 1001 to all of subsection (a). (55) By codifying a minimal materiality threshold, the amendment ensured that defendants would not be held liable for trivial falsifications. (56) The Supreme Court has ruled that materiality is a "mixed question" of law and fact and, consequently, is best resolved by a jury. (57)

        Both prior and subsequent to the enactment of the amendment, courts considered a statement to be material if it either: (i) actually influenced or (ii) has a natural tendency or...

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