United States District Court, D. Maryland
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ex rel. HAROLD SALOMON, Plaintiff,
DERISH M. WOLFF, Defendant.
W. TITUS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
31, 2006, relator Harold Salomon (“Relator”)
filed a complaint in the District of Maryland against
corporate defendants including the Louis Berger Group, Inc.
(“LBG”), alleging violations of the False Claims
Act (“FCA”), 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3733.
ECF No. 2. Relator filed an amended complaint (“Amended
Complaint”) on July 10, 2009, adding three additional
individual defendants, including Derish M. Wolff
(“Wolff”) and Salvatore J. Pepe
(“Pepe”). ECF No. 18. On November 5, 2010,
Relator, LBG, and the United States of America
(“Government”) signed an agreement settling the
claims against LBG and providing for LBG's dismissal from
28, 2016, the Government filed a Complaint in Intervention
(“Complaint in Intervention”) against Wolff and
Pepe only. ECF No. 83. On December 2, 2016, Wolff filed a
Motion to Dismiss for Improper Venue Or, in the Alternative,
to Transfer Venue to New Jersey [ECF No. 105], arguing that
venue in Maryland was not proper when the Government filed
its Complaint in Intervention in 2016 and that venue more
appropriately lies in the District of New Jersey. Both
parties also filed motions for leave to file sur-replies. ECF
Nos. 113, 121. This Court held a hearing on the motions on
July 7, 2017. For the reasons that follow, Wolff's motion
will be granted in part and the case will be transferred to
the United States District Court for the District of New
Amended Complaint alleged that Defendants knowingly defrauded
the United States by “tens of millions of dollars,
” through manipulation of overhead cost data and
overhead rate proposals relating to contracts for domestic
and international construction, engineering, and
environmental projects. ECF No. 18 ¶ 3. It stated that
venue was proper in the District of Maryland “pursuant
to 31 U.S.C. § 3732(a) because LBG transacts business
in, and acts proscribed by 31 U.S.C. § 3729 were
committed in, the District of Maryland.” Id.
November 5, 2010, Relator, LBG, and the United States of
America signed an Agreement settling the claims against LBG.
ECF No. 105-3. The agreement stipulated that all further
claims between the parties to the agreement would fall under
“the exclusive jurisdiction and venue” of the
United States District Court for the District of Maryland.
Id. ¶ 15.
November 5, 2010, in the District of New Jersey, Pepe pled
guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States. ECF No. 83
¶ 26. On December 12, 2014, in the District of New
Jersey, Wolff also pled guilty to conspiracy to defraud the
United States. Id. ¶ 23. The criminal charges
against both Wolff and Pepe are related to the conduct at
issue in the Government's Complaint in Intervention. ECF
No. 105 at 6.
Complaint in Intervention against Wolff and Pepe only, the
Government alleged an “East Orange [New Jersey] Office
Costs Scheme” and a “Washington, D.C. Office
Costs Scheme, ” pursuant to which Defendants Wolff and
Pepe allegedly committed FCA violations while working at
LBG's corporate headquarters in East Orange, New Jersey.
ECF No. 83 ¶¶ 82-93. On May 22, 2017, this Court
entered an Order dismissing with prejudice all claims against
Pepe, thus leaving only the claims against Wolff remaining.
ECF No. 119.
Wolff's Motion to Dismiss for Improper Venue Or, in the
Alternative, to Transfer Venue to New Jersey [ECF No.
provides that venue for any action brought under § 3730
is proper in any judicial district in which “any one
defendant can be found, resides, transacts business, or in
which any act proscribed by section 3729 occurred.” 31
U.S.C. § 3732(a).
district court may, for the “convenience of parties and
witnesses, and in the interest of justice, ” transfer a
civil case to any other district or division where it might
have been brought originally. See 28 U.S.C. §
1404(a); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a)
(“The district court of a district in which is filed a
case laying venue in the wrong division or district shall
dismiss, or if it be in the interest of justice, transfer
such case to any district or division in which it could have
district court has discretion to decide motions to transfer
based on “an ‘individualized, case-by-case
consideration of convenience and fairness.'”
Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29
(1988) (quoting Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612,
622 (1964)). The party seeking transfer must establish by a
preponderance of the evidence that the transfer will
“better and more conveniently serve the interests of
the parties and witnesses and better promote the interests of
justice.” Helsel v. Tishman Realty & Constr.
Co., 198 F.Supp.2d 710, 711 (D. Md. 2002) (citations and
quotation marks omitted). “[U]nless the balance is
strongly in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff's
choice of forum should rarely be disturbed.”
Collins v. Straight, Inc., 748 F.2d 916, 921 (4th
Cir. 1984) (quoting Gulf Oil v. Gilbert, 330 U.S.
501, 508 (1946)). Four factors guide the Court's
evaluation of whether transfer ...