by Brian Mahany
Anyone who reads this blog knows we are whistleblower lawyers – we represent people in false claims act cases (not the corporations committing the fraud). Our primary concern is making sure there is no retaliation against the whistleblower and insuring they collect the maximum cash awards allowed by law. Often whistleblowers face some sort of retaliation up to and including termination and “blacklisting” within an industry. They aren’t the only victims, however.
This post is being written from the beach in Clearwater, Florida where I am enjoying Easter with friends. The headlines for the last several days in the Tampa Bay Times have all centered on the FBI’s raid of Universal Health Care, a large national Medicare insurer headquartered in nearby St. Petersburg, Florida. Until Thursday, the company insured 140,000 Medicare recipients in 23 states and employed hundreds of residents in the St. Petersburg area.
Although the details are still sketchy, what is clear is that dozens of federal agents raided Universal’s corporate headquarters and now the business is closed amid allegations of widespread fraud. Hundreds of employees are suddenly without a job and a paycheck. But the list of victims doesn’t stop there.
Ordinarily, we are most concerned about our clients – the whistleblowers who bravely come forward to report fraud. In this case, it isn’t just the whistleblowers who are losing their job. Everyone in the company is.
For tens of thousands of retirees,the closure of Universal means no health insurance. One employee interviewed in the media said she was 8 months pregnant and now finds herself with no job and no health insurance.
Investors are also out there money. Two local physicians had invested approximately $10 million in the company. That money is probably gone – stockholders are usually the last to get paid.
The owner of a Subway sandwich shop across the street from Universal’s headquarters says that much of his business comes from there. That may mean layoffs for his employees.
Of course, in any Medicare fraud case, the losers include you and me; American taxpayers who foot the bill when government programs are looted and mismanaged. Thus far, no one has been charged so we can’t conclude that Universal has done anything wrong. Georgia state officials have taken action against them already and a couple dozen FBI agents with guns carting off boxes of documents and computers is never a good sign.
One person I spoke said it was a shame and that the government should let them remain open. Rewarding criminals, however, is never an option. From the published reports, it seems like Universal was on the verge of collapse anyway.
Whether there were one or more whistleblowers working behind the scenes remains to be seen. As we previously stated, the last chapter of this story is far from being written. Most Medicare and medical billing frauds are brought to light by whistleblowers; concerned employees who are tired of covering up fraud and mismanagement.
In our opinion, these men and women are America’s true heroes. They come forward and take a stand even when its not popular to do so. Although their actions sometimes lead to the closure of businesses and the loss of their own job, by coming forward, they save American taxpayers billions of dollars annually. They also prevent even worse and further harm to others.
Congress recognized their contributions and during the Civil War era passed the False Claims Act which allows whistleblowers to receive a sizable percentage of whatever the government collects from the fraudsters. That law remains on the books. Sometimes, whistleblower awards can exceed $100 million!
Whether the government brings a false claims charge against Universal remains to be seen. You can bet, however, there are thousands of medical billing frauds taking place all across America, however on a daily basis. If you have information and wish to come forward, give us a call.
Our whistleblowers attorneys represent people across the United States. We currently represent the whistleblower in the largest false claims case anywhere in the U.S. against a lender or bank; HUD’s $2.4 billion case against Allied Home Mortgage.
Mahany & Ertl – America’s Tax Lawyers. Offices in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Detroit, Michigan; Portland, Maine; Minneapolis, Minnesota and San Francisco, California. Services available in many jurisdictions.
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