US Justice attorneys have requested a civil default judgement against Johan Bruyneel and the now-dissolved Tailwind Sports, just three months after Lance Armstrong settled the federal 'whistleblower' lawsuit for $5 million, reported USA Today on Tuesday.
The US government filed its court papers on Monday and is seeking $1.2 million from Bruyneel, who managed the US Postal Service team under Tailwind Sports during Armstrong's seven Tour de France victories.
"Bruyneel was unjustly enriched by his fraud and is liable to the United States for the payments it made to him," the government stated in the court filings.
The government said Bruyneel received nearly $2 million in salary and bonuses over the course of its sponsorship. According to the USA Today report, the government filing said that the US Postal Service "paid 60 per cent of Tailwind's expenses, including the payments to Bruyneel. Accordingly, Bruyneel was unjustly enriched by his fraud and is liable to the United States for the payments it made to him through Tailwind, or $1,228,700."
Bruyneel and Tailwind Sports, which no longer exists, had stopped responding to the lawsuit in 2014, four years after it was opened by Floyd Landis. Bruyneel withdrew his representatives, and so the US government interprets that as an admission to its complaints by default.
The additional default judgements against both Bruyneel and Tailwind Sports amount to $451,000 for violations of the False Claims Act, $11,000 in penalties for each of the 41 claims Tailwind submitted for payment from the Postal Service from 2000 to 2004. However, USA Today spoke with transnational law expert, Linda Silberman, who believes that it is unlikely that the US government will recoup these amounts from Bruyneel because he does not reside in the US.
The original lawsuit was filed by Armstrong's former teammate, Landis, who was acting as the government whistleblower in 2010 under the US False Claims Act. The act allows citizens to sue on behalf of the US government if they believe that it has been defrauded. The suit alleged that Armstrong defrauded the US government by engaging in doping practices while under United States Postal Service title sponsorship.
The United States Postal Service, which is an independent agency of the US federal government, sponsored Armstrong's and Bruyneel's team between during six of Armstrong's seven Tour de France victories between 1999 and 2004 - Discovery Channel took over title sponsorship of the team ahead of his seventh victory in 2005 - and during those years it paid a total $32.3 million to financially back the cycling program.
Thus, the US Justice Department joined the lawsuit against Armstrong, Bruyneel and Tailwind Sports, stating that they had all been "unjustly enriched," and sought $100 million.
Battled in the courts for more than five years, Armstrong settled on paying roughly $5 million just days before it was expected to go to trial this spring. In that settlement amount, Landis and his attorneys were owed $2.75 million (25 per cent of the damages plus additional legal fees) while the government keeps $3.9 million.
Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles following the United States Anti-Doping Agency's reasoned decision document, which was published at the end of 2012. He confessed to doping en route to those victories in a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey the following year.
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