$10 Million Settlement Reached in Whistleblower False Claims Act
April 27, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MIAMI UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, AND WHISTLEBLOWER
MARJAN MAZZA REACH $10 MILLION SETTLEMENT IN FALSE CLAIMS ACT ACTION BROUGHT
BY THE JOSEPHS LAW FIRM, DIAMOND MCCARTHY LLP AND SADOWSKI FISCHER PLLC
The United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and the Department of Justice, Miami-Dade County, and whistleblower Marjan Mazza have now finalized the settlement of a False Claims Act qui tam case brought by Ms. Mazza, on behalf of herself and the United States. The Defendants were Miami-Dade County and the Miami Dade Transit Authority (collectively “MDT”), and whistleblower Mazza settled her retaliation claims against them at the same time. Ms. Mazza was represented in these proceedings by The Josephs Law Firm, Sadowski Fischer PLLC, and Diamond McCarthy LLP.
Pursuant to that settlement, Defendants are paying the United States $6,038,767.90, and the whistleblower is receiving the highest percentage allowed as a qui tam award under the False Claims Act. Ms. Mazza will receive an additional $1,664,106.05 settlement payment for her retaliation claims, and her attorneys will receive $2,250,000 million in attorneys' fees, for a total settlement payment, to the United States, Ms. Mazza, and her attorneys, of $9,952,873.95.
Miami Dade Transit operates the fifteenth-largest public transit system in the United States, with over 3,200 employees. Whistleblower Mazza is a former executive-level employee of MDT. Her Complaint alleged that she witnessed MDT misconduct first-hand — through meetings she attended, emails she received, through her access to relevant documents, and through her day-to-day work at MDT. As a result, Ms. Mazza’s Complaint described MDT’s misconduct in detail, and described it through the eyes of a very knowledgeable insider.
According to that Complaint, from at least January 2004 through December 2010, MDT received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants, including stimulus funds, to maintain its transportation system. The Complaint further alleged that MDT fraudulently drew down and misapplied grant funds received from the Federal Transit Administration (“FTA”) to fund contracts for goods and services that were ineligible for FTA funding, and then repeatedly and falsely certified to the United States that MDT was in compliance with all federal laws and regulations relating to those grant funds.
Also according to the Complaint, when Ms. Mazza discovered MDT’s fraudulent scheme, she first blew the whistle internally, hoping that MDT management would fix the problems. Instead, she was marginalized and came to believe that the only action MDT was going to take was to cover up the fraud. She then blew the whistle by contacting the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General and the FBI, and, ultimately, by commencing her qui tam/retaliation lawsuit.
As further recited in the Complaint, MDT and its management responded to Ms. Mazza’s efforts to stop the alleged grant fraud by attacking her personally in the press and internally — and by improperly terminating her employment. Those actions tarnished an exemplary career in public service, and led to the above-referenced retaliation action and the settlement payment thereon.
Robert W. Sadowski, Andrea Fischer, Raphael Katz and Audrey Schechter of Sadowski Fischer PLLC, Jim McCarthy, Arley D. (“Trip”) Finley III and Ben Garry from Diamond McCarthy, and Michael and Adam Josephs of The Josephs Law Firm represented the whistleblower. All concur in the view that “Ms. Mazza acted courageously, and her settlement is a tribute to those, like Marjan Mazza, who will not tolerate the misuse of taxpayer dollars.” For Ms. Mazza’s part, she is satisfied that she is now being compensated for the damage she suffered – solely because she did her job conscientiously.
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