To the Editor:
During the last fiscal year, the U.S. Department of Justice collected a total of more than $8 billion in civil and criminal actions on behalf of American taxpayers. This represents nearly three times the roughly $2.76 billion of the Department’s direct appropriations that fund its main litigating divisions and all 94 United States Attorney’s Offices. Combined with collections secured during fiscal year 2012, last year’s total means that the Department has attained the highest two-year total in its history – bringing in a noteworthy $21 billion.
Our 2013 collections arose from successful prosecutions of offenses ranging from mortgage fraud schemes, antitrust violations, and banking scams, to federal health violations and environmental offenses; from civil debts collected on behalf of other federal agencies to restitution, criminal fines, and felony assessments – including many secured by U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country. More than $3 billion of last year’s total related specifically to health care fraud on federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid. In fact, for every dollar we’ve spent to combat health care fraud over the last three years, the Justice Department and its partners have returned an average of nearly eight dollars to the U.S. Treasury, the Medicare Trust Fund, and others.
As Attorney General Eric Holder recently noted, this work is enabling us to achieve justice and recoup losses in virtually every sector of the U.S. economy. All across the country – from Wall Street to Main Street – the Justice Department’s robust criminal and civil enforcement efforts have yielded an extraordinary return on investment for American taxpayers, in addition to enforcing federal laws and protecting the American people from violent crime, national security threats, discrimination, exploitation, and abuse.
Here in the Southern District of Illinois, my colleagues and I in the United States Attorney’s Office have taken significant steps forward in the fight against frauds committed against agencies of the United States. As an example, in January 2013, the Southern District of Illinois recovered $4,250,000.00 as part of the settlement made with American President Lines (APL). In this instance it was alleged that APL billed the United States for, and the United States paid for, various costs associated with the transport and shipment of Army & Air Force Exchange Service and Defense Logistics Agency cargo containers from the United States to military outposts in Afghanistan. In fact, APL’s conduct with respect to certain shipments did not comply with the terms of the contract, making a fraud against the United States.
We can all be proud of these and other results that the Justice Department and its federal, state, and local law enforcement partners have attained. But we cannot yet be satisfied. Particularly in this time of nearly unprecedented budgetary difficulties and increasingly limited funding, it is more important than ever that government leaders continue to serve as sound stewards of precious taxpayer resources.
In the days ahead, as Congress completes its annual appropriations process – and as my colleagues and I plan for 2014 and beyond – I urge Representative Bill Enyart and Representative John Shimkus, and all other Congressional leaders to ensure that the Justice Department will have the resources it needs to build on its recent achievements.
By increasing support for the Department’s vital work, we can improve its ability to secure additional collections and return stolen funds to the public coffers. In this way, given adequate funding and resources, my office will make crime pay the taxpayers, not the criminals.
U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton
Southern District of Illinois