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AC firm settles false claims lawsuit

USA: A Richmond, Virginia, air conditioning company has agreed to pay $625,000 after allegations that it underpaid its workers and submitted false certified payroll reports on federal projects.

James River Air Conditioning Company subcontracted to perform plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning work on seven separate federal renovation and construction projects located in and around the Richmond area.

US laws requires that contractors on federal projects submit weekly payroll reports certifying that they correctly classified their workers according to work actually performed and that workers be paid not less than prevailing wages and benefits. The United States initiated an investigation after a qui tam (or whistleblower) lawsuit was filed under the federal False Claims Act.

The False Claims Act permits the government time to investigate allegations in qui tam complaints and to intervene in such lawsuits. Based on its investigation of the allegations, the United States intervened, the case was unsealed and the Government filed a complaint. The alleged conduct occurred between 2012 and 2015.

The False Claims Act also permits whistleblowers to receive a share of any recovery. The whistleblower in this case will receive $106,250 from the settlement. The civil claims settled by this False Claims Act agreement are allegations only; there has been no determination of civil liability.

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