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What is Government Grant Fraud?

Understanding Government Grant Fraud

What is government grant fraud? It happens when an individual or entity that receives a government grant makes a form of false claim to the government regarding the grant. According to the Department of Justice, government grant fraud is considered lying, stealing and cheating. Although it is a serious offense to behave fraudulently with private grant funds, it is even more serious when the federal government is the victim. Grant fraud differs from a grant scam, which is a scheme that someone designs to pose as a government grant maker and solicit fake offers to people. Scam artists typically charge a fee for applying, so it helps to remember that it is always free to apply for a real government grant.

Common Types of Grant Fraud Claims

Federal grant funds are issued to provide a wide array of public services and benefits. They may be for health initiatives, community improvement, law enforcement, research or something else. Under the False Claims Act, there are several types of fraud claims that can be made by the government against recipients in any area. These are the most common types of grant fraud claims:


  • Using funds for purposes other than those specified in the agreement.
  • Providing false information on a grant application.
  • Not complying with the accounting and record-keeping requirements of the grant maker.

Risks of Government Grant Fraud

Not all people who are charged with grant fraud willfully commit a crime. When this happens, it is important to have an attorney who knows how to handle the issue. It is possible to be charged with grant fraud because of an error or negligence. There have been some cases in which grant recipients failed to file certain reports or documents and faced fraud charges.

Because of the complexities of government grants, it is critical to ensure full compliance of the terms. The Department of Justice provides several specific examples of risks that organizations must mitigate to avoid grant fraud. These are some examples:


  • Issuing reimbursement checks, credit cards or ATM cards liberally to multiple employees.
  • Failing to meet requirements for documentation or accounting.
  • Lacking internal controls and accountability steps to limit financial misconduct among employees.
  • Failing to regularly examine the internal structure of the program for fraud vulnerabilities.
  • Not properly vetting employees who are trusted to handle or account for grant funds.
  • Reporting erroneous, inaccurate or embellished information to obtain or maintain grant funds.

The defense against fraud is ensuring that trustworthy employees are hired and that internal procedures minimize all risks of fraud. However, even the measures require cooperation from many people, and fraud charges can leave organizational leaders wondering what happened.

Government Grant Fraud Penalties

The False Claims Act was established in 1863. At the time, it stated that anyone who made false claims to the government was liable for double the damages plus a set fee. Over time, that fee grew, and the act was amended to allow for even more financial recourse for the government. The penalties vary based on circumstances. However, there are strict legal and financial penalties for individuals or entities that knowingly and willfully deceive the government regarding grants. The Criminal False Claims Act guidelines state that anyone who knowingly makes false claims to the government may face between five and eight years in federal prison. The Civil False Claims Act guidelines allow for up to three times the amount of the total damages. Also, there may be a fee between $5,500 and $11,000 in addition to the damages.

Choosing a Government Grant Fraud Attorney

Any grant fraud allegation is a serious issue and warrants the need for an attorney who understands federal laws concerning government grants and fraud. Whether the claim is criminal or civil, it is important to have a winning defense strategy. Our attorneys know the right strategies and approaches for a variety of situations, and they consider all the complexities of each case’s unique details. Please contact us for a consultation.

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