Whistleblower/False Claims/Qui Tam
Fraud against the government hurts us all. After all, it’s our tax dollars that are being stolen when people decide to rip off Medicare and Medi-Cal, get student loans or financial aid they don’t qualify for, or bilk billions from the government through defense contracts fraught with cost overruns and inflated figures. Unfortunately, the government simply does not have the resources to keep a lid on all the waste, fraud and corruption that goes on. That’s why Congress and the California legislature have passed laws to give tools to the American public to fight fraud on behalf of the government. At the Law Offices of Jeffrey Fleitman in Los Angeles, we can help you bring a whistleblower, False Claims Act or qui tam action in court, stopping fraud against the government, holding wrongdoers accountable for their misbehavior, and being compensated for your efforts in helping the government weed out these financial crimes.
False Claims Act and Qui Tam
The federal False Claims Act allows private citizens to prosecute people who commit fraud against the government. When a private citizen brings a claim personally and on behalf of the government, this is known in law as a qui tam action. The False Claims Act provides for civil penalties from $5,000 to $10,000; in addition, wrongdoers can be assessed three times the amount of any actual damages their fraud has caused.
For state government claims, individuals can bring a case under the California False Claims Act. This law allows for penalties from $5,500 to $11,000, and triple damages as well. Common examples of false claims cases include:
- False Submissions – Billing the government for goods and services never delivered
- Overcharging or duplicate billing – Overcharging or duplicate billing the government for goods or services
- Mischaracterization – Billing the government for activities not covered under the applicable contract
- Rigged or collusive bidding – Winning a government contract through kickbacks or bribes
- Reverse False Claims – Making false statements to avoid paying money owed to the government or being overpaid by the government for goods or services and not reporting that overpayment
- False Cost Reports – Fabricating or inflating reimbursement costs submitted to the government
- Cost Misallocation – Allocating to a government contract direct or indirect costs properly attributable to a private sector contract or allocating to a government “cost plus” contract costs properly attributable to a government “fixed price” contract
- Substituted Products – Billing for premium products and substituting inferior ones
- Research Grants – Making false statements to obtain grant (or contract), applying grant proceeds to non-grant purposes, or submitting requisitions based on inflated reported costs or other false statements
- False Service Records – Submitting false service records or samples to show better-than-actual performance
- Billing for unnecessary medical tests – Performing inappropriate or unnecessary medical procedures or tests to increase Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements
- False certifications or defective testing – Certifying that something has passed a test when in fact it has not or falsely certifying that a product complies with certain contact requirements
- Prescription or pharmaceutical fraud – Lying to the government about wholesale price of prescription drugs or billing the government for unapproved or off-label uses of certain drugs
- Unbundling – Using multiple billing codes instead of one billing code for a drug panel test to increase remuneration
- Bundling – Billing for a panel of tests when a single test was requested
- Upcoding – Inflating bills by using diagnosis and billing codes that suggest a more expensive illness or treatment or billing at doctor rates for work conducted by a nurse, resident intern, or other assistant
- Billing for brand – Billing for brand-named drugs when generic drugs are provided
- Phantom employees and doctored time slips – Charging for employees that were not actually on the job, or billing for made-up hours to maximize reimbursements
- Medical fraud – Billing for unsafe or unapproved uses of medical devices or services
- Billing for work not done or completed – Billing to increase revenue instead of billing to reflect work performed
- Selling defective goods – Failing to report known product defects
- False Research – Falsifying research or billing for research never performed
Protecting Whistleblowers in the Workplace
Employees are in a unique position to report violations of safety rules, environmental regulations and other legal violations they observe at work. Workers who fear for their job security if they report wrongdoing should know that they are protected from retaliation for reporting discrimination, harassment or other legal violations. Federal laws such as OSHA, Sarbanes-Oxley, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as well of course as the Whistleblower Protection Act, all have legal protections against retaliation built in to their laws.
At the state level, California Labor Code section 1102.5 protects employees who report safety or other violations to government authorities or to persons within the company. Violation of the law can subject the company to a $5,000 fine, and individuals can be sentenced to up to a year in jail and fined up to $1,000. In addition, the employee can sue for damages, including reinstatement with back pay plus interest if they were wrongfully terminated.
Get Help Today with Your Whistleblower or Qui Tam Claim
Los Angeles attorney Jeffrey Fleitman serves the public interest by assisting individuals in bringing false claims lawsuits or blowing the whistle on unlawful conduct. We will fight to see that your rights are protected and that you are compensated for your troubles. Call 310-399-2889 for a no-cost, confidential consultation.