The U.S. Attorney offices across the country hauled in a total of $13.1 billion in criminal and civil fines and penalties during the 2012 fiscal year that ended in September, according to Justice Department figures.
That number is more than double fiscal year 2011’s $6.5 billion. The money collected is a result of criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits — and represents a return that is more than six times what it costs to run all 94 U.S. Attorney offices, the department said.
The breakdown of collections was provided to Main Justice by Justice Department headquarters. It showed that the largest contributor to the $13.1 billion total was the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office. The office, headed by U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, collected $8.8 billion over the fiscal year, outpacing the No. 2 office by more than $3 billion and accounting for about 67 percent of the total collection.
Ortiz trumpeted its prosecution of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline LLC, which agreed in July to pay $3 billion to resolve allegations of falsely reporting safety data and unlawfully promoting drugs for unapproved uses.
“During this time of economic recovery, I believe that these collections are more important than ever,” Ortiz said in a news release. “We will continue to fight to recover funds for victims of federal crime and the federal treasury, holding those accountable who seek to profit from their illegal activities.”
The Glaxo settlement was the largest ever for a health care fraud case — but it may be hard to top. A U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit panel earlier this month reversed the conviction of Alfred Caronia, a pharmaceutical sales representative, for promoting drugs for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The panel ruled 2 to 1 that criminalization of such conduct violated Caronia’s First Amendment free speech rights
Such “off-label” marketing violations have been a pillar of federal health care fraud enforcement. But it is legal for doctors to prescribe drugs for any reason they choose, even if not FDA-approved. It’s also legal for doctors and patients to discuss those non FDA-approved uses. Therefore, it can’t also be illegal for a pharmaceutical sales rep to engage in a “truthful” similar discussion, the judges ruled.
Of the total $13.1 billion, about $5.3 billion was collected in cases shared by more than U.S. Attorney’s office.
The U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York brought in the second-most with $5.14 billion. EDNY was followed by the Northern District of Georgia with $5.1 billion and the Western District of North Carolina with $5 billion. Some $5.3 billion of the funds are associated with more than one office because of shared cases and prosecutions.
The smallest collection came out of the District of Wyoming with just more than $938,000.