We have long said that whistleblowers are the new American heroes. Most of the folks we encounter are hard working women and men who grow tired of seeing fraud, greed and corruption in their work place. Until this morning, we never heard of a homeless whistleblower. This is America, however, and anyone can rise up and become a hero.
We all work hard for what we make. Why should a few people feel they are above the law? Corruption not only rewards the guilty but the rest of us wind up footing the bill. Whistleblowers all share a common thread. They have a strong sense of right and wrong and aren’t afraid to stand up for what is right.
The Los Angeles Times carried a story this week of homeless man in San Francisco, Matthew Hay-Chapman. A week ago Chapman was trying to survive San Francisco’s chilly winter temperatures as his only shelter was a blanket. Matthew lives in a public park. Today he is awaiting a check for $140,000.
Hay-Chapman’s case involved a police award for two dangerous escapees. Certainly not the “normal” whistleblower story we encounter. His story still needs to be told, however.
Matthew told reporters that despite being homeless and living in a park, he still keeps current with the news. When he realized he had information about the two escapees, he flagged down a cop. Why? Because it was “the right thing to do.” He didn’t even know about the reward at the time he helped police.
The men he helped captured were wanted for a variety of charges including torture, murder and kidnapping. Hay-Chapman downplays his role as a whistleblower but his friends were more enthusiastic. One told a reporter, “He is really a straight-up guy. He is a guy who is into doing good things for people even though he is homeless.”
Not every whistleblower helps police capture a man wanted for murder. But all whistleblowers are still heroes. They help taxpayers save billions of dollars each year and in the case of certain types of Medicare fraud, often do save lives.
Whistleblower Awards and the Federal False Claims Act
Whistleblowers who report financial crime against the government or government programs can earn up to 30% of what the government collects from wrongdoers. There are similar programs for reporting bank fraud, securities fraud and tax cheats.
The biggest reward program is the federal False Claims Act. That law was enacted by Congress in the 1860’s and remains the government’s number one weapon against fraud against taxpayers. To obtain an award under the False Claims Act, one must have original, inside information about fraud involving government programs or funds. To claim an award, one must have an attorney and file a sealed (secret) lawsuit in federal court.
Time is of the essence as generally only the first to file gets the award.
Are the awards real? In 2014 the Justice Department paid out over $435 million in awards. Our clients have received over $100 million.
For more information, visit our False Claims Act information page. Better yet, call us. The author of this post, attorney Brian Mahany, can be reached at or by telephone at (direct). All inquiries protected by the attorney – client privilege.
MahanyLaw – America’s Whistleblower Lawyers