The Government Intervenes in False Claims Act Lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles and CRA/LA
Whistleblowing often contributes to the process of uncovering waste, fraud, and abuse by aiding some of society’s most disadvantaged members. Proof of this was demonstrated last week when the Justice Department announced that it was intervening in a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles and the CRA/LA (formerly the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles). The suit alleges that CRA/La and the City of Los Angeles falsely certified that they were in compliance with HUD’s accessibility laws specifically Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This act is meant to ensure that disabled individuals have equal access to public housing.
According to the lawsuit CRA/LA and the City of Los Angeles applied for and received millions of dollars from HUD and that a portion of that money was meant to provide affordable housing for people with disabilities in compliance with HUD’s accessibility laws. The laws, in part, require that five percent of all units in federally-assisted multifamily housing be accessible to people with mobility impairments. They also require that the city and CRA/LA to maintain a list of accessibility features for those with any number of impairments including auditory and visual impairments. Finally, the law requires that a monitoring program be put in place to ensure that the disabled are not denied the benefits of federally-assisted housing programs.
As a precondition to receiving HUD funds, the City was required to comply with Section 504 of the Fair Housing Act. The lawsuit alleges that none of the HUD-assisted multifamily housing supported by CRA/LA met the minimum number of accessible units. The lawsuit also alleges the City and CRA/LA failed to monitor sub-recipients of HUD funds for compliance with accessibility laws. Finally the government alleges that the City and CRA/LA failed to maintain a publicly available list of accessible units and their features.
“This case alleges that the City of Los Angeles repeatedly violated the law by falsely certifying that millions of federal dollars were being used to build housing that included units accessible to people with disabilities,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Brown for the Central District of California. “While people with disabilities struggled to find accessible housing, the city and its agents denied them equal access to housing while falsely certifying the availability of such housing to keep the dollars flowing. The conduct alleged in this case is very troubling because of the impact on people who did not have access to housing that met their needs.”
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District court in Los Angeles by Mei Ling, a resident of Los Angeles who is confined to a wheel chair, and the Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley. Mei Ling filed the lawsuit under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act. The Act permits individuals to sue on behalf of the federal government in cases where False Claims Act violations are thought to have occurred. The Act also allows whistleblowers to share in any recovery. If you have chosen to report a False Claims Act violation we advise you to contact a qui tam law firm. A qui tam attorney will be able to advise you on such matters and protect your rights. Tips and complaints from all sources about potential fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, can be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services, at 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).