A nonprofit organization based in West Allis, Wisconsin agreed to pay $1.9 million to the federal government after reports from a whistleblower revealed the organization was simply repackaging Chinese products they claimed were made by visually impaired Americans.
The organization is Industries for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Because of these claims, the organization was able to earn Ability One certification, which gave it a leg up on winning government and military contracts.
The whistleblower was the organization’s former marketing manager, Paul Inzeo. He filed a False Claims Act against the organization in 2015, alleging the scheme allowed the organization to become a multimillion dollar enterprise with the aim of enriching its officers, even at the expense of those it was claiming to help.
The organization was founded as Industries for the Blind, Inc. in 1953, changing its name in 2018. Its website claims 75 percent of its workforce is legally blind, but the lawsuit claims the true figure is far lower.
Inzeo claimed during his tenure at the organization, it brought in approximately $40 million worth of products from China, South Korea and Taiwan each year, which it would then resell as goods made in America by the blind. Inzeo witnessed part-time workers who were not visually impaired handling all the repackaging, relabeling and assembly work necessary to propagate the scheme.
The False Claims Act allows people with information about fraud against the federal government to file legal actions on the government’s behalf, and the Department of Justice can then undergo investigations and allocate a portion of recoveries to give to whistleblowers as an award for their assistance.
To learn more about how to begin a False Claims Act case of your own, contact a trusted whistleblower lawyer at Kardell Law Group.