The Edmond Sun

January 29, 2014

Investing in justice is a safe, sound strategy

Sanford Coats
Special to The Sun

EDMOND — During fiscal year 2013, the Department of Justice, collected more than $8 billion in civil and criminal actions on behalf of American taxpayers. This is nearly three times the amount of DOJ’s direct appropriations that fund our main litigating divisions in Washington, D.C., and all 94 U.S. Attorney’s Offices throughout the country. Combined with collections secured during fiscal year 2012, DOJ has attained the highest two-year total in its history — bringing in a noteworthy $21 billion.

Here in the Western District of Oklahoma we recovered more last year than any prior year in our history. We collected more than $177 million in criminal and civil actions, of which more than $163 million was collected in criminal actions and more than $13 million in civil actions. My office also worked jointly with other U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and DOJ components to collect an additional $446 million in other civil cases. Finally, the Western District collected more than $78 million more in asset forfeiture actions.  

In July of 2013, this office resolved parallel criminal and civil cases against Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc., for the unlawful “off-label” marketing of the prescription drug Rapamune for uses not approved by the FDA. The case concluded with Wyeth pleading guilty to a criminal misbranding violation and paying $490.9 million to resolve its criminal and civil liability.  

In April of 2013, we resolved alleged record-keeping violations by CVS Pharmacy and recovered $11 million. The monetary recovery is certainly significant, but this case was also critical to our efforts to combat prescription drug abuse. Ensuring that accurate prescription records are provided to state prescription drug monitoring programs, so that controlled substances are properly distributed and accounted for, is essential.

We are committed to hold accountable those who seek to profit from their illegal activities. The dedicated public servants in my office work daily to recover the financial losses suffered by victims of crime and money obtained by fraud against the government. This effort is coordinated by our Asset Recovery Unit comprised of specially trained personnel who pursue collections and forfeiture matters.

Nationally, more than $3 billion of last year’s recoveries related specifically to health care fraud on programs like Medicare and Medicaid. In fact, for every dollar spent to combat health care fraud during the past three years, DOJ and its investigative partners have returned an average of nearly eight dollars. As U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently noted, this work is enabling us to achieve justice and recoup losses in virtually every sector of the economy. All across the country — from Wall Street to Main Street — DOJ’s robust criminal and civil enforcement efforts have yielded extraordinary returns on investment for American taxpayers, in addition to enforcing federal laws and protecting the American people from violent crime, national security threats, discrimination, exploitation and abuse.

The numbers speak for themselves. Locally and nationally, investing in justice not only keeps us safe, it is a sound financial investment.

SANFORD C. COATS is U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma.