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USAO’s recoveries hit all-time high here

Maryland’s U.S. Attorney’s Office recovered more than $126.7 million in civil and criminal cases in fiscal 2011, more than doubling the amount taken in the year before.

The recovery marked an all-time high for the Maryland office, according to U.S. Justice Department statistics released Friday.

The office collected $115.5 million in civil cases and $11.2 million in criminal debts owed to the government and crime victims for the fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30.

U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said the Maryland office’s financial recoveries often exceed its operating budget, which was about $16 million for fiscal 2011.

“Typically, when you see big numbers like this, a large proportion is attributable to a small number of False Claims cases,” against pharmaceutical companies and medical offices, Rosenstein added.

Specifically, in a case against Novo Nordisk, Maryland recovered $25 million in June to resolve allegations of inappropriate off-label promotions of the hemophilia drug NovoSeven.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the company paid military physicians for questionable research to promote the use of the drug in military and civilian trauma centers, despite mounting evidence of harm for its use in trauma-related hemorrhage.

Another case, against Serono Laboratories Inc., brought in $44.3 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations against the company in connection with its marketing of the drug Rebif.

According to information listed on the Justice Department’s website:

*     Of the $115 million collected in civil cases, more than $114 million came from affirmative civil enforcement cases where government money was lost to fraud or other misconduct, as well as fines imposed on individuals or companies for violations of federal laws.

*     Nearly $400,000 was collected in civil debts on behalf of other federal agencies, including the U.S. departments of Education; Housing and Urban Development; and Health and Human Services; and the Internal Revenue Service and the Small Business Administration.

*     In addition to the $126.7 million collected in fiscal 2011, the U.S. Attorney’s Office recovered $7.2 million in asset forfeiture actions. Of that amount, $1.7 million was given back to state and local law enforcement agencies. Forfeitures against criminal defendants netted $26.1 million.

The amount collected in fiscal 2010 was $60 million. The money collected in 2011 represented a 67 percent increase in criminal collections and a 45 percent increase in civil collections over the prior year, Rosenstein’s office reported.