EDITORIAL: Anyone who thinks white-collar criminals get off easy need only look at statistics released today by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman showing that his office this past fiscal year collected $137.5 million in fines, restitution and settlements, nearly 70% of which was through civil actions.
And that doesn’t count nearly $14 million in forfeitures.
But that’s just part of the overall picture: U.S. Attorneys’ office nationwide collected $6.5 billion in criminal and civil actions during fiscal 2011, surpassing $6 billion for the second year in a row.
The two-year $13.2 billion total is more than 50 percent over the $8.55 billion collected in fiscal years 2008-09.
This past year’s amount alone is more than three times the appropriated budgets of all 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices combined. It includes $2.66 billion in restitution, criminal fines, and assessments from criminal cases.
Fishman’s predecessor, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, made his name busting corrupt public officials – as well as for getting indictments against some who weren’t.
Fishman has built a solid reputation on snaring greedy bankers, mortgage brokers and others whose crimes hurt as much, if not more, than those committed by thugs.
“With all eyes on the bottom line in this recovering economic climate, Americans look to the federal government to spend money wisely,” he said. “This Office was able to recover more than four times our budget for FY 2011.”
Total collected: $151,509,815
Civil court actions: $95,078,412
Criminal court actions: $42,460,184
Forfeitures (criminal & civil): $13,971,219
Some of the money goes directly to specific victims. A large chunk goes to the U.S. Justice Department’s Crime Victims’ Fund, which distributes the money to state victim compensation and victim assistance programs.
“Not only does our work provide vital protection to the people of New Jersey,” Fishman said. “We provide exceptional returns on the taxpayers’ investment.”
Also unlike Christie, Fishman has avoided the sound bite clichés. So he can be excused for saying that the figures released today provide “compelling evidence that crime doesn’t pay.” (Ouch.)
He has a point, though: Two months ago, for example, the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office negotiated that largest civil recovery ever in a home health care fraud case: The $150 million settlement with Maxim Healthcare Services, Inc., a Maryland-based medical staffing and home health care company, includes the firm’s agreement to reimburse federal Medicaid and Veterans Administration medical programs $70 million and state Medicaid programs $60 million. Maxim also agreed to pay a $20 million criminal fine.
According to Fishman’s office, the largest civil collections nationwide were money recovered from fraud or other misconduct, as well as fines, involving for violations of federal health, safety, civil rights or environmental laws.
“In addition, civil debts were collected on behalf of several federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Internal Revenue Service, and Small Business Administration,” a release says.
That’s effective service we can all be thankful for.