Resolution Sends More Money Back to Taxpayers Than a Prior Year’s Worth of Cases
WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 11, 2023) — An auto dealership management company agreed to pay $9 million to resolve claims that it illegally obtained forgiveness for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan to which it was never entitled, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The settlement concludes a whistleblower lawsuit brought by former employee David Jones, who will receive $1.62 million for alerting federal prosecutors to the alleged scheme by Victory Automotive Group, which has affiliates from California to Michigan to Florida.
Mr. Jones is represented by The Employment Law Group® law firm. His legal complaint, filed in July 2021, became public today at the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
At $6.28 million, Victory Automotive’s disputed loan appears to be the largest single PPP payment yet recovered by the U.S government via a whistleblower lawsuit — and the $9 million overall settlement is another milepost in the Justice Department’s accelerating push for PPP enforcement.
All by itself, Mr. Jones’ lawsuit returns more money to U.S. taxpayers than the 35 improper PPP loan cases that were resolved under the False Claims Act (FCA) during the 2022 fiscal year, combined, based on government numbers.
The FCA, signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, makes it illegal to claim payment from the federal government via deception. The law includes a “qui tam” provision that allows whistleblowers to file a complaint on behalf of the U.S. and — if they prevail — to receive a portion of any resulting settlement or judgment.
Under the terms of the FCA, Mr. Jones’ lawsuit remained sealed while prosecutors dug into his allegations. The parties signed a settlement agreement late last month, and the case finally became public today. Victory Automotive didn’t acknowledge any wrongdoing in the matter.
“The pandemic was a time of rampant rule-breaking and outright fraud, but David’s moral compass never wavered,” said Janel Quinn, a principal of The Employment Law Group who represents Mr. Jones in the case. “Only certain businesses could claim PPP loans to stay afloat, and only certain businesses could claim forgiveness for those loans. Those were the rules. David refused turn a blind eye at Victory Automotive, and U.S. taxpayers are better off as a result.”
Ms. Quinn represents Mr. Jones along with R. Scott Oswald, TELG’s managing principal. They worked on the case in cooperation with Assistant U.S. Attorney Lindsay Griffin from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, and with Benjamin Wei, senior trial counsel at the Justice Department in D.C.
United States ex rel. Jones v. Victory Automotive Group, LLC
U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida
Complaint filed on July 19, 2021 (available here)
About The Employment Law Group
The Employment Law Group® law firm represents whistleblowers and employees who stand up to wrongdoing in the workplace. Based in Washington, D.C., the firm takes cases nationwide.