United States District Court, S.D. Florida
OMNIBUS ORDER ON MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY
G. COOKE United States District Judge.
an action under the federal False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C.
§§ 3729-3733 (“FCA”). Plaintiff, the
United States of America, alleges Defendants FastTrain II
Corp., d/b/a FastTrain College (“FastTrain”) and
its President, Chief Executive Officer and co-owner,
Alejandro Amor,  knowingly presented, or caused to be
presented, false statements and claims to the United States
and the United States Department of Education
(“DOE”). Plaintiff seeks treble damages and civil
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 31 U.S.C. §
are: (1) the United States' Motion for Summary Judgment
(ECF No. 131); and (2) Amor's Cross-Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 141). For the reasons that follow, I grant
Plaintiff's Motion and deny Defendant's Motion.
action arises from violations of the FCA and common law by
FastTrain and its President, Chief Executive Officer, and
co-owner Amor. From at least January 2010 through June 2012,
when FastTrain closed, FastTrain and Amor knowingly
presented, or caused to be presented, false claims and
statements to the DOE and concealed material information in
order to participate in the federal student aid programs
authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965
(“HEA”), as amended, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1070
et seq. (“Title IV, HEA
Amor's direction, FastTrain knowingly submitted and/or
caused to be submitted false information relating to the
eligibility of students to receive Title IV, HEA Programs
funds - through the Federal Pell Grant Program (Pell
Grant”), the Federal Family Educational Loan Program
(“FFEL”), the Federal Direct Loan Program
(“FDL”) and the Campus Based Programs - by
providing false documentation that certain students had a
high school diploma or its recognized equivalent when in fact
they did not have such credentials. Also at Amor's
direction, FastTrain admissions employees instructed and
counseled ineligible prospective students to provide false
high school completion attestations and further coached them
to lie on their Free Application for Federal Student Aid
(“FAFSA”), the document that students file to
obtain Title IV, HEA funds. As a result of Amor's
fraudulent scheme and false representations of Title IV
eligibility, FastTrain received millions of dollars of Title
IV financial aid that it otherwise would not have received.
twenty-three day trial in United States of America v.
Alejandro Amor, Case No. 1:14-cr-20750-JAL(s)-1 (S.D.
Fla.) (“Amor Criminal Proceeding”), a
jury convicted Amor of one count of conspiracy to steal
Government funds, in violation of Title 18, United States
Code, Section 371, and twelve counts of theft of Government
funds, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section
The United States now seeks to recover treble damages and
civil penalties under the FCA for Amor's illegal acts.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment “shall be granted if the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the
moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of
law.” Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642
(11th Cir. 1997) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)) (internal
quotations omitted); Damon v. Fleming Supermarkets of
Florida, Inc., 196 F.3d 1354, 1358 (11th Cir. 1999).
Thus, the entry of summary judgment is appropriate
“against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient
to establish the existence of an element essential to that
party's case, and on which that party will bear the
burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
moving party bears the initial burden to show the district
court, by reference to materials on file, that there are no
genuine issues of material fact that should be decided at
trial.” Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929
F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991). “Only when that burden
has been met does the burden shift to the non-moving party to
demonstrate that there is indeed a material issue of fact
that precludes summary judgment.” Id.
“requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the
pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the
‘depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, ' designate ‘specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. Thus, the nonmoving party
“may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of
his pleadings, but must set forth specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
factual dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving
party.” Damon, 196 F.3d at 1358. “A mere
‘scintilla' of evidence supporting the opposing
party's position will not suffice; there must be enough
of a showing that the jury could reasonably find for that
party.” Abbes v. Embraer Servs., Inc., 195 F.
App'x 898, 899-900 (11th Cir. 2006) (quoting Walker
v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1577 (11th Cir. 1990)).
deciding whether summary judgment is appropriate, “the
evidence, and all inferences drawn from the facts, must be
viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party.” Bush v. Houston County Commission, 414
F. App'x 264, 266 (11th Cir. 2011).
THE FALSE CLAIMS ACT
(1) [A]ny person who -
(A) knowingly presents, or causes to be presented, a false or
fraudulent claim for payment or approval; [or]
(B) knowingly makes, uses, or causes to be made or used, a
false record or statement material to a false or fraudulent
is liable to the United States Government for a civil penalty
of not less than $[5, 500] and not more than $[11, 000], as
adjusted by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment
Act of 1990 (28 U.S.C. 2461 note; Public Law 104-41), plus 3
times the amount of damages which the Government sustains
because of the act of that person.
31 U.S.C. § 3729(a)(1)(A)-(B); see 28 C.F.R.
§ 85.3(a)(9) (adjusting penalties for inflation).
in the FCA, a “claim”
(A) means any request or demand, whether under a contract or
otherwise, for money or property and whether or not the
United States has title to the money or property, that -
(i) is presented to an officer, employee, or agent of the
United States . . .
31 U.S.C. § 3729(b)(2), as amended.
Congress did not define what makes a claim
“false” or “fraudulent, ” the
“phrase ‘false or fraudulent claim' in the
[FCA] should be construed broadly.” United States
ex rel. Sanchez v. Abuabara, 2012 WL 254764, at *6 (S.D.
Fla. 2012) (quoting Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah
River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 788 (4th Cir. 1999);
see S. Rep. No. 99-345, at 9 (1986). The FCA does
not require specific intent to defraud, only knowledge of the
false information or deliberate ignorance or reckless
disregard of its falsity. 31 U.S.C. § 3729(b)(1).
further provides that:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Federal Rules
of Criminal Procedure, or the Federal Rules of Evidence, a
final judgment rendered in favor of the United States in any
criminal proceeding charging fraud or false statements,
whether upon a verdict after trial or upon a plea of guilty
or nolo contendere, shall estop the defendant from denying
the essential elements of the offense in any action which
involves the same transaction as in the criminal proceeding
and which is brought under subsection (a) or (b) of section
31 U.S.C. § 3731(e).
I turn to the merits of the parties' Motions, I first
address two procedural arguments Amor raises. He asserts: (1)
this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the
Government is a party to a civil administrative money penalty
proceeding involving Amor; and (2) the Second Amended
Complaint (“SAC”) ...