Today the United States Justice Department announced the settlement of a qui tam lawsuit (i.e. a whistleblower lawsuit) with Defendants Aziz Ashurov, Laziza Abdullaeva, and Capital Invest, LLC, relating to the purchase of property in Nashville through a program run by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Defendants have agreed to pay $200,000 to resolve these claims. The whistleblowers were represented by Jerry Martin and Seth Hyatt of Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, LLC.
In the lawsuit, the whistleblowers alleged that Defendants manipulated a HUD program intended to increase the stock of affordable housing in cities such as Nashville. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that Defendants concealed their status as property developers and falsely certified an intention to occupy the property as a primary residence—rather than develop it. Under HUD rules, this gave Defendants an opportunity to bid before other developers and investors, during an initial period when only owner-occupants were supposed to be bidding.
“The lack of affordable housing is a major issue in Nashville,” said Jerry Martin of Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, LLC. “This settlement sends a strong message to developers that they don’t just get to cut in line and take housing away from the families that programs like this are intended to benefit.” Mr. Martin added that “cases like this are a great example of how important whistleblowers are in exposing fraud that might otherwise pass undetected. We thank these two whistleblowers for their courage in coming forward and the United States for its time and effort in investigating these claims.”
The press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee is available here: https://www.justice.gov/usao-mdtn/pr/middle-tennessee-investors-pay-200000-settle-false-claims-act-allegations-regarding-hud
Martin, who served as the presidentially appointed United States Attorney from 2010-2013, focuses his practice on representing whistleblowers who wish to come forward and expose fraud on state and federal programs. The False Claims Act provides a mechanism for whistleblowers to report fraud and share in the government’s recovery.
Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, LLC is based in Nashville, but represents whistleblowers all around the country.