We see many unusual False Claims Act cases. Criminals can be very enterprising. Their creativity is often amazing. Ultimately, most get caught and usually after a whistleblower steps forward and reports their wrongdoing. Our story today of Joshua Miller and his Syracuse Hearing Aid Centers is one of the more creative frauds we have seen.
Hearing aid centers aren’t very glamorous. Often located in small strip malls, they sell just one thing. Hearing aids. Unless you suffer a hearing impairment, you probably have never even visited one of these stores.
Our alleged fraudster, Joshua Miller, owns a hearing aid store in Syracuse, New York. Not satisfied with selling hearing aids, Miller thought he found his ticket to paradise. His scheme? Selling custom made headphones for music and gaming. The hook was his plan to bill the state employee’s health plan, Empire, for the high-end devices. Prosecutors say he was billing Empire as if the devices were hearing aids!
How many did he sell? Court documents and media reports claim he bilked taxpayers for a staggering $1,650,000.00.
And who were his customers? All were state employees or their families but many of his customers included state troopers and corrections officers! At least one officer is reported to have raked in $70,000 in “referral” fees.
Miller would take the headphones, with a retail value of $200 to $300, and bill the state’s insurer $3000 per unit claiming they were medically necessary hearing aids.
New York False Claims Act
Because Empire is taxpayer funded, the fraud ultimately hurts the taxpayers of New York State. Thankfully, New York has a robust whistleblower law that rewards those who come forward with information of wrongdoing. Under the New York False Claims Act, tipsters can receive between 15% and 30% of whatever the state recovers from the wrongdoer. Because the law also provides for triple damages and other penalties, awards can be quite high.
Miller’s case is being handled criminally. More arrests are expected. State Inspector general Catherine Leahy Scott says she will pursue officers who misused their state positions for personal gain.
At least report, Miller was being held in jail in lieu of bail. If prosecutors have their way, some of his jailers may soon be on the other side of the bars as well.
Last year the federal government paid out over $435 million in whistleblower awards. This doesn’t include monies paid by the many states that have similar whistleblower laws.
If you are considering becoming a whistleblower, give us a call. Our clients have helped taxpayers recoup billions of dollars and have earned over $100 million in awards. For more information, contact attorney Brian Mahany at or by telephone at (direct). You can also visit our False Claims Act page. We proudly represent whistleblowers nationwide.
MahanyLaw – America’s False Claims Act Lawyers