New Orleans Archdiocese settles $ 1 million whistleblower lawsuit
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – The Archdiocese of New Orleans has agreed to pay more than $ 1 million to settle whistleblower lawsuit claiming he had inflated damage estimates for federal recovery money after Hurricane Katrina, a newspaper reported.
Federal bankruptcy judge Meredith Grabill approved the terms on Tuesday, according to The Times-Picayune / The New Orleans Advocate.
The agreement provides for the payment of $ 1.05 million over two years to the US Department of Justice, with the whistleblower and his lawyers receiving up to $ 262,500.
The archdiocese “expressly denies” the claims of Robert Romero, a former project manager at California engineering firm AECOM, court documents said.
Neither a spokeswoman for the archdiocese nor her lawyer immediately responded to requests for comment sent by email on Thursday.
Archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May 2020 after being sued by a number of people who say they have been sexually abused by priests.
The whistleblower lawsuit filed in 2016 – 11 years after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans – claimed the church received $ 46 million more than it should have from the Federal Agency emergency management for damage to a church-run school and assisted living center.
Romero accused a colleague of helping the archdiocese and two private universities defraud the government of more than $ 100 million.
Xavier University agreed to pay $ 12 million.
The US Department of Justice, which had joined the action, dismissed Romero’s colleague and Dillard University as the accused, saying further prosecution was not worth it. Dillard has been charged with $ 15 million in fraudulent claims,
AECOM, which received around $ 300 million, appears to be the last remaining accused in the case, the newspaper reported.
The company said it still remains within FEMA guidelines.