GAINESVILLE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) – In a False Claims Act lawsuit brought by the U.S. government, a federal judge has ruled against a former University of Florida nuclear engineering professor who was previously convicted of fraudulently obtaining government contracts.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak ordered Samim Anghaie, his wife Sousan and their company New Era Technology to pay nearly $3 million in a case brought by the U.S. in 2012.
In December, U.S. Magistrate Judge Gary Jones, of the Northern District of Florida, recommended granting the United States’ motion for summary judgment and tripling the actual damages suffered by the government.
“The Court is further persuaded that, as the sentencing court determined, Defendants’ misrepresentations caused harm to the Government by diverting funds that otherwise would have gone to legitimate small businesses, and therefore the causation element necessary for the recovery of treble damages is satisfied,” Jones wrote.
“The amounts paid by the Government on the contract invoices at issue in this case total $915,543.79. Under the FCA, that amount is tripled to $2,746,631.37.”
Jones and Smoak also imposed the maximum $11,000 penalty on each of the false claims for a total penalty of $231,000.
The Anghaies formed NETECH in 1989, and Samim worked as the director of the Innovation Nuclear Space Power and Propulsion Institute at the University of Florida from 1999-2009.
In 2010, the Anghaies were charged with 62 crimes, including wire fraud, false statements to a federal agency and money laundering.
Many of the counts were dismissed because of a statute of limitations on them had run out, and a jury acquitted the two on other counts.
However, they were convicted in February 2011 of wire fraud allegations and submitting false information to obtain contracts from MASA and the U.S. Air Force. Samim was sentenced to six months in prison, and Sousan was sentenced to six months of home confinement.
They were also each fined $100,000 and forced to forfeit almost $400,000 to the federal government.
According to Jones’ report, the defendants submitted contract proposals containing fraudulent information regarding the identities of NETECH personnel and work performed.
They also falsely described the number of employees at NETECH and its relationship with the University of Florida while submitting invoices for labor hours allegedly completed by employees who had not actually done so, the report says.
Lastly, the defendants submitted stolen research information that had been produced by UF graduate students, other professors and a Russian laboratory, the report says.
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