MILWAUKEE, Sept. 29, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Industries for the Blind, Inc. has agreed to pay the United States $1,938,634 to settle allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by knowingly mislabeling Made in China goods as Made in America and falsely claiming Ability One (blind-made) product status to gain lucrative government contracts according to information released by Elite Lawyer Management representing whistleblower law firm Mahany Law.
The conduct was brought to light by whistleblower Paul Inzeo, former marketing manager for Industries for the Blind, a West Allis, WI-based nonprofit created in 1948, "to create jobs for the blind and visually impaired."
Whistleblower lawyer Brian Mahany of Mahany Law, noted for a string of multi-hundred million to multi-billion dollar whistleblower lawsuit wins on behalf of whistleblowers like Inzeo, filed the False Claims Act lawsuit in 2015 in support of Inzeo's allegations, including (from the complaint):
"Instead of providing much needed employment and training opportunities for America's blind and disabled that Congress strived to accomplish, IBI and its officers have orchestrated a complex scheme designed to mislead the U.S. government and American taxpayers and further deprive the blind and disabled, all while enriching themselves by exploiting their position as certified contractors of blind made products."
According to Inzeo:
"They imported approximately $40 million dollars of goods a year from China and sold them as American blind-made products to the U.S. government. The sales brochures pictured blind employees but I witnessed sighted part-time workers handling the repackaging, relabeling, and assembly. When I asked the warehouse manager why, he replied it was easier to hire sighted workers because it took too long to teach the blind how to do the work."
Attorney Mahany comments,
"Exploiting the blind to perpetrate a scheme to defraud the government is among the most outrageous conduct I have seen in a decade of whistleblower cases."
The False Claims Act allows citizens like whistleblower Inzeo to file a lawsuit on behalf of the United States and earn a reward when they witness and report fraud involving federal programs or funds. The Ability One Commission is a federal agency that administers certification of goods and services as blind-made, giving the approved employing companies special access to government procurement contracts.
SOURCE Elite Lawyer Management