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United States v. Harris

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS EASTERN DIVISION


January 31, 2008

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JULIE HARRIS, DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert W. Gettleman

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff United States of America brought a complaint against defendant Julie Harris under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729 et seq. On July 12, 2006, defendant was indicted on four counts of making false statement to a government agency in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2). Defendant pled guilty pursuant to a plea agreement to count one of the indictment. She was sentenced to a five year term of probation and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $32,272 to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Plaintiff has now moved for judgment on the pleadings against defendant Harris. That motion is granted.

Under 31 U.S.C. § 3731(d) of the False Claims Act, defendant is estopped from denying the essential elements of the offense of which she was convicted in a criminal proceeding. Both the instant civil complaint and count one of the indictment allege that defendant knowingly submitted a false statement on or about October 8, 2001, when she failed to report her income on an Application for Continued Occupancy Form. Further, the civil complaint alleges additional false statements in 2003 and 2004, and in her criminal plea agreement*fn1 defendant admitted that she provided false income information by failing to report her income on additional Applications for Continued Occupancy dated September 13, 2002, September 15, 2003, and September 23, 2004.*fn2

In her response, defendant argues that by pleading guilty to count one only, she pled guilty only to the material facts alleged in the indictment on that single count. She further claims that, as a result, plaintiff must now establish by a preponderance of the evidence all of the other false claims not encompassed by the criminal conviction. In her plea agreement, however, which was filed and made part of the criminal case, defendant admitted under oath to making additional false statements on September 13, 2002, September 15, 2003, and September 23, 2004, and is therefore estopped from contradicting any of them in the instant case. The plea agreement is a judicial admission, and unless defendant is suggesting that she lied in her plea (which she is not), the admission compels entry of judgment in the instant case.

Under the False Claims Act, a person found to have violated the Act "is liable to the United States government for a civil penalty of not less than [$5,500] and not more than [$11,000], plus three times the amount of damages which the government sustains because of the act of that person.." 31 U.S.C. § 3729. Accordingly, the United States' motion for judgment on the pleadings in granted. Judgment is entered in the amount of three times the criminal restitution award of $32,272 or $96,816, plus the minimum penalty of $5,500 for each of the four false Application for Continued Occupancy Forms she admitted submitting in her plea agreement, or $22,000, for a total of $118,816.

Robert W. Gettleman United States District Judge


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