United Airlines is best today known for its poor customer service, inhumane treatment of overbooked passengers and destroying checked bags. A series of bad press and YouTube videos has finally got Congress interested in how the airline conducts its commercial passenger operations. As we reported earlier, however, United Airlines gets much of its money from Uncle Sam. That means our tax dollars and big opportunities for someone considering becoming an aviation whistleblower.
United Airlines has already been accused by several of its own technicians for its shoddy maintenance work. A case argued last week could determine whether United used defective parts and then passed them off as new or refurbished. One 28 year veteran of the company says supervisors instruct technicians to dumpster dive for parts.
We have now learned that United Airlines holds millions of dollars of government contracts for air traffic control operations and air charter service. The agencies contracting for these services include the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration. These contracts are in addition to the millions they get from the Air Force to maintain C-117 cargo planes.
Several years ago, United Airlines paid out millions to settle a charge relating to defective jet engine maintenance. On April 5th, a federal judge in South Carolina heard arguments about another aviation whistleblower claim regarding faulty maintenance and jet engine inspection.
Is United Airlines cutting corners on its VA and Defense Department contracts? That is what we are investigating. And we need your help.
An Aviation Whistleblower Can a Earn Significant Award
Under the federal False Claims Act, whistleblowers with inside information about government contracting fraud can earn significant cash awards. To qualify, a whistleblower must have inside or “original” information about fraud involving a government contract, program or funds.
Common aviation whistleblower scams include:
- Overcharging the government for aircraft maintenance (the US government operates the largest fleet of aircraft in the nation);
- Performing shoddy maintenance on government aircraft and either covering up their poor work or lying about it when invoicing;
- Fudging critical inspection data or engage in “pencil whipping”;
- Contractors that overcharge the government for charter or commercial air service;
- Other schemes that involve overcharging for other aviation related services (such as air traffic control); and
- Defense contractors that over bill the government for military and law enforcement aircraft
Sadly, overcharging Uncle Sam for aircraft and aviation services is common. If the allegations involving faulty inspections and bad parts made against United Airlines are true, United’s actions sunk to a new low. They likely put our service men and women at risk.
False Claims Act and Whistleblower Awards
When the False Claims Act was passed in the 1863, the Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur, were still a few years away from being born. We did not have aircraft during the U.S. Civil War but that didn’t stop contractors from ripping off the Union Army. Back then it was wagons having wheels that fell off and donkeys too lame to be of service.
Fast forward to the 21st century and today we have a brand new category of whistleblower – an aviation whistleblower. These are typically folks that work for airlines, aircraft maintenance, or defense contractors. It could even be a government employee with knowledge of a contractor breaking the rules. If these folks have inside information about misconduct involving government programs, they could be eligible for an award.
Under the Act, an aviation whistleblower can receive between 15% and 30% of whatever the government collects from wrongdoers. The actual award depends on a variety of factors including the value of their information, whether or not the government or the whistleblower prosecuted the case and the amount of money recovered. Whistleblower awards in the millions of dollars are not uncommon.
Qualifying for a Whistleblower Award
Assuming you have insider knowledge of fraud, the next step is to find a lawyer. You need a lawyer because obtaining an award means filing a sealed lawsuit in federal court. (A few states have whistleblower award laws that would cover state agency use of aircraft such as forestry or state police.)
Many would-be whistleblowers fear the “hassle” of filing a lawsuit. Fortunately, that responsibility falls on the lawyer’s shoulders. At MahanyLaw we never charge any fees or costs unless we are successful recovering money for you.
The False Claims Act has a first to file requirement meaning its never a good idea to wait too long. We note that two United Airlines employees each filed separate whistleblower claims in 2003 involving the same Charleston maintenance facility. Unless whistleblowers have different information, only the first to file gets paid.
Aviation Whistleblower Protection
Worried about retaliation and keeping your job? Congress recognizes that fear of retaliation prevents some people from stepping forward. Under the False Claims Act, your identity is generally safe while the government investigates the claims. This why the lawsuit is sealed – the wrongdoers and press cannot access the lawsuit.
Ultimately, most complaints are unsealed. The Act contains powerful anti-retaliation provisions in case an employer retaliates. The law provides for double lost wages and attorneys’ fees.
We can help you protect your privacy and prevent /prosecute illegal retaliation. Often we can keep your name out of the press even when the case is unsealed.
Need for Aviation Whistleblowers
Deciding to become a whistleblower is a big step. Most people don’t do it for the money, they do it because they know stealing from taxpayers is wrong. Greed and corruption are wrong.
Many aviation whistleblower cases involve overbilling. Those are bad enough. Sometimes, like the claims against United for poor maintenance, the claims could mean the difference of life and death.
If you have knowledge of United Airlines (or any other airline or contractor) cutting corners on any work for the government, we want to know.
Every inquiry is protected by the attorney client privilege and kept strictly confidential. Even if you do not hire us or decide not to become a whistleblower, your information is still protected.
We will help you decide whether there is a violation of the False Claims Act and whether you are entitled to an award. Assuming you are, we will help you with next steps and protect you from retaliation.
MahanyLaw – America’s Aviation Whistleblower Lawyers