A US court on Friday rejected a request to have a court judge block a controversial balloon payment scheme, as the United States government sought to reinstate a lawsuit against the government.
A California man had been in prison for nearly five years for allegedly paying a woman for a balloon that would inflate to the size of a balloon.
He was eventually released from prison in 2018, but has been facing a long jail term in federal court in San Diego since he was arrested in March 2018.
He is challenging the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in court, saying the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) violated his rights by failing to pay him for the balloon.
In its complaint filed against the DOJ, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) alleged that the balloon was an “unlawful payment to a prisoner” and was used to fund a sham prison facility.
It also claimed the balloon “is an unlawful payment to an inmate”.”CDCR failed to disclose that it had a prior agreement to pay the defendant for the inflated balloon,” the DOJ said in a filing.
“The balloon was used for no legitimate purpose, and the DOJ knew of no legitimate use for it other than as a payment for inmate costs.”
The balloon payment was initiated in 2016, after the VA had failed to pay for balloon deliveries.
The balloon payment is considered an “unauthorised use” under the VA’s health care program.
The balloon is supposed to be paid for with the prisoner’s own money.
In this case, the balloon has been used to pay $7,500 to a woman who is a former inmate of the California prison.
“This payment is an illegal one, because it is a payment to the defendant, which is a violation of federal law,” the government said in its complaint.
In addition, the lawsuit alleged that CDCR had “engaged in other violations of the [VA’s] payment obligations, including fraudulently obtaining the balloon from the Department”.
It said that in addition to its obligations under the Health Care Cost Parity Act of 2003, the Department owed CDCR $1,200,000 for the “cost of providing the balloon to defendant”.
In a statement, the DOJ declined to comment.
A US Department spokesperson said in response: “The Department does not comment on pending litigation.”
The lawsuit has been going on for nearly a year, and it has caused an uproar among the public, including some who have been charged under the law.
The DOJ’s complaint said the balloon is the only way to pay inmates, including those who are in federal prison.
The DOJ also said that the DOJ’s “compliance with its contractual obligations” with the balloon scheme has been “substantially lacking”.
“The balloon payments do not provide the benefits the defendants seek and are not adequate to meet the DOJ obligations to ensure timely payment of the balloon,” it said.
“The DOJ has failed to address any of the deficiencies identified by CDCR.”