A Hawaiian hospital – B Wahiawa General Hospital (WGH) – located in Honolulu, has agreed to pay more than $451,000 to settle two lawsuits alleging that the hospital improperly billed the Medicare program, the State of Hawaii Medicaid program, and TRICARE, the federal health benefits program for military dependents. The whistleblower lawsuit was brought by a doctor who had worked at the Physicians Center at Mililani, an out-patient clinic operated by WGH, who alleged that WGH had submitted bills to Medicare and Medicaid programs for services provided by resident doctors without the level of supervision required by federal law.
Because the lawsuit was brought under the federal and state False Claims Acts – which encourages assistance from the public by allowing private persons to receive a share of any damages recovered if the person substantially contributes to the successful prosecution of the case – the whistleblower doctor will receive $84,642.75 of the $451,428.00 settlement payment.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) often relies on whistleblowers to enforce various securities laws and regulations and prevent investors from fraud, and the SEC is publicly reassuring whistleblowers that it will continue to support their role in the investigation and prosecution of fraud. As we recently reported, the SEC has announced that it plans to issue whistleblower awards at a faster pace in upcoming months.
Earlier this year, the SEC paid two relatively small awards – $50,000 and $150,000, respectively, – and the SEC recently awarded three more whistleblowers more than $25,000, as part of a total anticipated payout of approximately $125,000, for tips and information the whistleblowers provided to help the SEC and Justice Department stop a sham hedge fund. The remaining payouts will be made as additional assets are collected from the purported hedge fund manager, Locust Offshore Management and its CEO Andrey C. Hicks, who are expected to have assets worth $845,0000 seized in connection with the action.
No one is exempt from the False Claims Act and the prosecution of Medicare fraud crimes – even celebrities. Miami actor Roberto F. Marrero, who held small roles in television shows such as Miami Vice, pleaded guilty last week to charges that he, his wife, and another man engaged in a $15 million Medicare fraud scheme. Marrero and his wife, Sandra Fernandez Viera, were the former owners of Miami home healthcare agency Trust Care. The lawsuit alleged that Marrero and his wife billed Medicare for sham nursing services and spent the profits on a cable TV station, among other expenditures. Marrero and his wife were among 89 defendants, including doctors, nurses and clinic operators, accused of a $223 million Medicare fraud scam that spanned the country.
The whistleblower attorneys at Goldberg Kohn are committed to fighting fraud against the government and protecting the rights of whistleblowers. Below are summaries of recent developments pertaining to whistleblower, qui tam, and False Claims Act actions throughout the United States.
Please contact us at (312) 863-7222 if you would like to learn more about any of the aforementioned whistleblower news updates or would like to schedule a free, confidential appointment with one of our nationally-recognized whistleblower attorneys.