Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman today announced that the U.S. Department of Justice and the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California have reached a settlement in a recently unsealed whistleblower qui tam action against Bizlink Technology, Inc., a Fremont, California based importer of computer cable assemblies.
Bizlink has agreed to pay $1.2 million to settle government claims that the company underpaid customs duties on goods imported into the U.S. in violation of the False Claims Act.
Between 2006 and 2008, Bizlink allegedly underpaid customs fees on goods that were imported from Bizlink International Electronics Co., Ltd., a company factory in Shenzhen, China. In order to avoid payment of lawful customs duties it is alleged that Bizlink provided false documentation to the United States Customs and Border Protection Division of the Department of Homeland Security.
According to government allegations, Bizlink used two sets of invoices for each shipment made from the Shenzhen factory; one invoice was the true invoice paid by Bizlink, the other was a false invoice with lower costs. The false invoices were used to calculate customs fees that Bizlink paid on their imported goods. The result of using the false invoices allowed Bizlink to substantially underpay customs duties.
The whistleblower, also known as a relator, initially filed the lawsuit in United States District Court for the Northern District of California on August 8, 2012. The case was investigated by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California; the Department of Justice; and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Director of Field Operations in San Francisco. Under the False Claims Act, whistleblowers that file lawsuits on the government’s behalf can receive a portion of the judgment or settlement. The relator in this case will receive a reward of $252,000.
Baum Hedlund attorney Mark H. Schlein, who represented the whistleblower in this case, stated, “Our client saw something that he knew wasn’t right and he had the courage to come forward and report it.”
Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman is a national law firm representing whistleblowers as well as plaintiffs in complex litigation resulting from defective pharmaceuticals, and major transportation disasters. With a career spanning over 40 years in law enforcement and as a practicing attorney, Mark Schlein heads the firm’s whistleblower practice group.