Lawyers at the Houston firm of Brewer, Pritchard & Buckley are marshaling the firm’s white-collar criminal defense resources as a wave of CARES Act fraud prosecutions, civil enforcement and opportunistic qui tam actions begins to take shape across the United States.
Mark Brewer, a principal of the firm, notes that federal prosecutors have already filed several criminal fraud charges in a handful of high-profile cases across the United States involving the misuse of CARES Act stimulus funds related to COVID-19 relief.
“We’re already seeing federal indictments targeting the low-hanging fruit,” says Brewer, “meaning fraud schemes that are unsophisticated, easy to investigate, and easy to prove.”
In one such case, federal prosecutors recently charged an Atlanta man with bank fraud for allegedly spending emergency Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds on a Rolls-Royce, other luxury goods, and unpaid child support.
As the federal government ramps up its deployment of auditors to track and verify the proper use of PPP loan payments and other CARES Act stimulus funds, Brewer predicts that government litigators and prosecutors won’t be far behind. “We’re going to see an unprecedented wave of civil enforcement actions and criminal indictments,” he says, “alleging a wider and more sophisticated array of schemes involving the misuse of federal stimulus funds.”
Businesses and corporations targeted for theft and fraud accusations
Criminal defense lawyer Sean Buckley, one of Brewer’s colleagues at the firm, agrees. “As federal auditors have a chance to really drill down into where stimulus funds went and for what purpose,” he says, “you’ll start seeing a much wider cross-section of individuals and businesses targeted for civil enforcement and prosecution.”
Buckley expects that many such “targets” will be legitimate business owners and corporate executives who’ve never before been accused of theft or fraud – much less accused of defrauding the federal government out of millions of dollars. “This will be a distressing and overwhelming experience for them,” he says, “as it would be for anyone.”
Employers and business owners who have been forced to navigate overly complicated and evolving rules set by the Government, should not be targeted for their good faith efforts.
Buckley believes that successfully defending clients against fraud allegations “will at least partly stem from the ambiguous and confusing rules and regulations on how these funds may be spent.”
Buckley last year headed the criminal defense trial team that secured a stunning acquittal of a healthcare contractor accused in a $120 million fraud scheme against the federal government. He believes that his extraordinary trial victory illustrates the importance of an oft-forgotten defense in fraud cases.
“Regardless of how much money is involved, how outrageous the spending might seem, or how poor a client’s judgment may have been,” says Buckley, “at the end of the day the feds still have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted with criminal intent.”
Our firm will dedicate itself to defending clients against CARES Act fraud investigations
Brewer and Buckley both believe that defending clients against CARES Act fraud investigations, civil enforcement actions, qui tam suits and criminal prosecutions will heavily occupy the firm’s practice for the foreseeable future.
“We’ve already made the decision to commit significant firm resources to this practice area for the next five to seven years, at a minimum,” Brewer explains. “We’ve also committed ourselves to supporting and defending business owners and health care providers against unwarranted False Claims Act prosecutions and qui tam litigation."
About our firm
The attorneys at Brewer, Pritchard & Buckley, P.C. have earned a reputation for helping businesses, corporations, and professionals across the U.S. protect their reputations and defend their rights. Our legal team has worked tirelessly with businesses, medical professionals or institutions to build strong legal defenses since 1991. Contact us online to learn how we can help you.