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Jury Finds for District, Awards $329,653 in Damages in False Claims Case Involving HIV/AIDS Program

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Jury Finds for District, Awards $329,653 in Damages in False Claims Case Involving HIV/AIDS Program

CONTACT:  
Ted Gest
Public Information Officer
202-727-6283
ted.gest@dc.gov

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A D.C. Superior Court jury found in favor of the District of Columbia in a lawsuit filed by the District alleging that Miracle Hands, Inc., and its executive director, Cornell Jones, had improperly diverted grants funds from the District’s HIV/AIDS program, D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan announced today. The jury found actual damages of $329,653 against both defendants.

The District alleged that Miracle Hands, a District of Columbia non-profit corporation, received District grant funds to pay for renovations at a former warehouse at 2127 Queens Chapel Road N.E. that is now operated as a nightclub.  The District’s grants to Miracle Hands from 2006 to 2008 required that the warehouse be converted into a job training facility for people with HIV/AIDS.  The conversion never occurred and the job training facility has never opened.
At trial last week, the District’s witnesses testified that four months after receiving the grant funds, Cornell Jones signed a letter of intent stating that he was negotiating a lease for the same warehouse to be used as a nightclub.  District witnesses testified that neither Jones nor Miracle Hands informed the District that Jones intended to lease the warehouse to be used as a nightclub.

Instead, Miracle Hands and Jones submitted invoices to the District for work at the warehouse that was never done. Although defendants contended that the location of the job training facility had changed, District witnesses testified that Cornell Jones did not obtain a building permit for the purported new location until the second year of the grant had nearly expired. The defendants submitted invoices for work that was either not performed or performed without a building permit.
After four days of trial, the jury returned a verdict yesterday finding Cornell Jones and Miracle Hands liable under the District’s False Claims Act for submitting nine records or statements to get false claims paid by the District’s former HIV/AIDS administration.

The case was tried by Assistant Attorneys General Jane Drummey and Nicholas Bush under the supervision of Ellen Efros, Deputy Attorney General of the Public Interest Division, and Bennett Rushkoff, Chief of the Division’s Public Advocacy Section.
Attorney General Nathan applauded the work of the trial team and the jury’s decision, stating that “this verdict should serve as a warning to all those who would attempt to misuse District grant funds.”

CPPA