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United States ex rel. Doe v. Staples, Inc.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 22, 2013

UNITED STATES ex rel. JOHN DOE, Plaintiff, Relator,
v.
STAPLES, INC., OFFICEMAX, INC., TARGET CORP., INDUSTRIES FOR THE BLIND, INC., Defendants

Filed March 25, 2013

Page 35

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 36

For JOHN DOE, UNITED STATES ex rel., Plaintiff: Joseph A. Black, Joyce Ellen Mayers, Randall S. Herrick-Stare, LEAD ATTORNEYS, THE CULLEN LAW FIRM, P.L.L.C., Washington, DC.

For STAPLES INC., Defendant: David William Ogden, Don Bradford Hardin, Jr., Jennifer M. O'Connor, LEAD ATTORNEYS, WILMER CUTLER PICKERING HALE & DORR LLP, Washington, DC.

For OFFICEMAX INC., Defendant: John F. Henault, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, PERKINS COIE LLP, Washington, DC; Steve Y. Koh, LEAD ATTORNEY, PERKINS COIE, Seattle, WA.

For TARGET CORP., Defendant: John M. Peterson, Maria E. Celis, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Richard F. O'Neill, PRO HAC VICE, NEVILLE PETERSON, LLP, New York, NY; James L. Volling, PRO HAC VICE, FAEGRE & BENSON, Minneapolis, MN.

For INDUSTRIES FOR THE BLIND, INC., Defendant: Leslie Paul Machado, LEAD ATTORNEY, LECLAIR RYAN, Washington, DC; Robert P. Fletcher, LEAD ATTORNEY, LECLAIR RYAN, A PROFESSIONAL CORPORATION, Washington, DC.

For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Interested Party: Darrell C. Valdez, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

Page 37

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD J. LEON, United States District Judge.

The anonymous plaintiff/relator (" plaintiff" or " relator" ) in this case alleges that defendants Staples, Inc. (" Staples" ), OfficeMax, Inc. (" OfficeMax" ), Target Corp. (" Target" ), and Industries for the Blind, Inc. (" IFB" ) violated the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § § 3729 et seq., (" FCA" ) by misrepresenting the origin of imported pencils. Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 1, 12 [Dkt. #22]. This case comes before the Court on the defendants' Motions to Dismiss. See OfficeMax's Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. # 39]; IFB's Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. ##52, 52-1]; Target's Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. ##54, 54-1]; Staples' Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. # 56]. Because the relator's claims are based on publicly disclosed information, of which the relator is not the original source, the Court GRANTS the defendants' motions for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.

BACKGROUND

Relator filed this qui tam suit anonymously and under seal on May 15, 2008. [Dkt. #1]. Nearly four years later, on April 2, 2012, the United States advised the Court that it would not intervene in the case. [Dkt. #20]. Relator then amended his complaint on May 21, 2012. Am. Compl. [Dkt. #22]. According to relator, defendants knowingly purchased low-cost pencils manufactured in China from suppliers in countries other than China. Id. at ¶ ¶ 1, 12. Relator further alleges that defendants defrauded the United States government by falsifying the pencils' origin to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (" Customs" ) in order to avoid various tariffs and duties applicable to Chinese-origin pencils. Id. at ¶ ¶ 1, 12-17.

In specific, relator alleges that Staples declared falsely on Customs entry documents that its pencils originated in Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Taiwan, id. at ¶ ¶ 35-36, and that Target falsely declared that its pencils originated in Taiwan and Indonesia, id. at ¶ ¶ 42-50. Furthermore, relator alleges that IFB falsely declared that its pencils originated in Taiwan, id. at ¶ ¶ 51-52, and that OfficeMax falsely declared that its pencils originated in Vietnam, id. ...


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