Whistleblowers who stand up to Medicare fraud already face plenty of hurdles… retaliation, possible loss of their job and being ostracized by co-workers. Because Medicare fraud cases filed under the False Claims Act are sealed by the court, whistleblowers often can’t even defend themselves or explain what is happening to co-workers. Congress realized the hardships faced by these brave folks and added strong ant-retaliation and whistleblower award provisions to the law.
What happens, however, when the very people that are charged with protecting whistleblowers are in bed with the wrongdoers? We may soon find out.
According to published reports, the U.S. Department of Justice is getting ready to prosecute U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D. New Jersey) on a variety of corruption charges. Included prominently in the allegations are that Menendez improperly intervened in a federal investigation of longtime pal and campaign donor Salomon Melgen. Melgen is an eye doctor in Palm Beach accused of making unnecessary eye injections in order to increase his profits from Medicare.
After we wrote our story in 2013, the Miami Herald wrote a 2014 story calling Melgen the highest paid Medicare physician in the United States. They say he billed Medicare $21 million in just one year, 2012. That story also claims that Melgen is under investigation for Medicare fraud.
The Herald quotes sources close to the investigation claiming that Melgen overbilled Medicare and also made the painful injections to some patients who didn’t need them. If those allegations are true, Melgen is a monster.
If the allegations against Melendez are true, he isn’t much better. Members of Congress take an oath of office to protect and uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States. Helping scam artists, particularly ones that are potentially harming patients, is more than simply unethical. It’s illegal and it’s evil.
No one has been charged yet although Melgen’s offices have been raided repeatedly. Menendez is reportedly about to be charged . Both men adamantly say they are innocent.
While we worry about the many alleged victims in these cases, we also worry about the whistleblower or whistleblowers that reportedly brought this case forward. As is often the case, but for a brave man or woman willing to stand up and blow the whistle, none of these claims may have ever been discovered.
Curious as to Menendez’ feelings about whistleblowers, we did some researching. According to Congressional records, Menendez voted against a proposal in 2005 that encouraged the UN to do a better job protecting whistleblowers.
Thankfully, Congress has already passed robust whistleblower award and anti-retaliation provisions. The federal False Claims Act can pay a whistleblower in a Medicaid or Medicare fraud case up to 30% of whatever is collected from wrongdoers. The damages can also be tripled. If Melgen was billing Medicare $21 million per year, the potential award payment could be huge if the feds can prove fraud.
We suspect the Menendez and Melgen investigations will soon become an even bigger media circus. We will continue to follow this case closely and look to see what happens with the Medicare fraud and whistleblower aspects.
Think you have inside information about Medicare fraud or fraud involving another government program? Give us a call, we help our clients stop fraud, help collect the maximum awards possible and protect our clients from retaliation. Need more information? Contact attorney Brian Mahany at or by telephone at (direct). All inquiries protected by the attorney – client privilege and kept in complete confidence.
MahanyLaw – America’s Whistleblower Lawyers