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The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station sits on the heavily populated shores of Southern California. Any nuclear disaster at the station would affect over 8 million people within 50 miles. Up until it was decommissioned a few years ago, workers at the San Onofre power plant voiced more safety complaints to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) about that plant than any other nuclear plant in the country.

The NRC – an independent government agency that oversees commercial nuclear power plants – revealed in 2010 that workers at the San Onofre plant did not feel free to report safety concerns internally over fear of being retaliated against. The same year, a San Onofre plant worker-turned-whistleblower claimed he was fired after raising concerns to his superiors about a design flaw inside the plant’s steam generators. The whistleblower’s name is Paul Diaz and the flaw he pointed out could have resulted in catastrophe.

“We need more whistleblowers, not fewer.” – Congresswoman Jackie Speier

At the time he came forward, Diaz was not afforded whistleblower protection because the power plant sits on federal land that was ceded to Southern California Edison in the 1960′s. Diaz’s whistleblower complaint against the plant and Southern California Edison caught the attention of California lawmakers like Congresswoman Jackie Speier. Congresswoman Speier, long an advocate for whistleblowers, recently proposed an amendment to the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriation Act of 2015 which clarifies that the Department of Energy “must protect non-federal employee whistleblowers from retaliation.” The amendment was passed recently according to a press release from her office in Washington.

“The Department of Energy has allowed its contactors to stifle whistleblowers through illegal workplace secrecy agreements and taxpayer-funded lawsuits to the detriment of taxpayers, said Congresswoman Speier in a statement. Without whistleblowers at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in California there could have been a Fukushima-like meltdown.”

“By preventing workers from reporting health and safety violations, the DOE is jeopardizing billions of taxpayer dollars and the public’s safety. The stakes at these facilities, which handle some of the most dangerous materials on earth, are far too high for this kind of bad practice.”

The whistleblower attorneys at Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman applaud Congresswoman Speier for her efforts to broaden protection for non-federal whistleblowers that come forward with information concerning safety violations, waste, fraud and abuse. These brave men and women are performing a vital public service for all of us and they should be praised and rewarded, not threatened.

 

 

 

A Kentucky cancer clinic pleaded guilty to charges of knowingly receiving and distributing non-FDA approved foreign source cancer drugs. The Hematology and Oncology Center in Somerset, Kentucky pleaded guilty to knowingly receiving a misbranded cancer drug, and is facing up to five years of probation and a maximum fine of $200,000. The center’s former office manager, Natarajan Murugesan, is facing up to a year behind bars and a maximum fine of $100,000 for aiding and abetting the sale of the misbranded drugs.

The clinic has already paid $2 million to resolve alleged violations of the False Claims Act by submitting for Medicare reimbursement based on misbranded and unapproved cancer drugs. One of the clinic’s owners, Dr. N. Mullai, was involved with the civil settlement but was not charged with any crime. According to the Courier-Journ1314902_medical_doctoral, the clinic and Murugesan admitted to purchasing “substantial amounts” of various chemotherapy and cancer treatment medications from a foreign distributor between January 2010 and July 2011. The drug packaging didn’t have labeling, the dosage information was in foreign languages, and the drugs themselves were manufactured in India, Turkey and other countries.

This kind of behavior is deplorable, as it puts patients at risk. In situations like this, patients and taxpayers can benefit from someone with knowledge of fraud coming forward and exposing the wrongdoing. Whistleblowers not only help save taxpayers money by reporting fraud, they may also receive a percentage of any money returned to the government. If you have any knowledge of health care fraud, get in touch with an experienced whistleblower attorney to help you through the process.

Omnicare to Pay $124 Million to Settle False Claims Allegations

June 25, 2014

The Justice Department announced today that Omnicare Inc. will pay $124 million to resolve allegations that the pharmacy company provided skilled nursing homes with illegal discounts in return for the opportunity to continue to provide drugs to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. The discounts allegedly resulted in Omnicare making false claims for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement. [...]

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Florida Patient Recruiter Guilty for Role in $205 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

June 19, 2014

A health care fraud scheme involving seniors who lived in assisted living facilities cost taxpayers more than $205 million dollars and was uncovered by federal criminal investigators in South Florida. The scheme, perpetuated by experienced healthcare professionals, has resulted in two criminal convictions. Yesterday, one of those men, a patient recruiter, was convicted for his [...]

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Treasury Department Scrapping Whistleblower Rewards

June 18, 2014

The Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) office of general counsel want to keep whistleblowers from obtaining rewards despite the IRS Whistleblower Program.  Essentially, the Rule would provide that if the fraud that a whistleblower reports is so serious as to warrant a criminal prosecution then no reward would be permitted [...]

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Government Files Complaint Against Info Tech Company Accused of Violating the False Claims Act

June 9, 2014

The government has filed a complaint against an information technology company accused of violating the False Claims Act in connection with a Government Services Administration (GSA) contract. CA Inc., a New York-based company that manufactures and sells information technology products, is accused of breaking its promise to provide the government with the same prices the [...]

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Former Executive Claims Insurance Company Stole $1 Billion From Medicare

June 4, 2014

A former executive claims in a recently filed whistleblower lawsuit that two Puerto Rican Medicare Advantage health plans overcharged Medicare upwards of $300 million a year between 2007 and 2010. The two health plans, MMH Healthcare and PMC Medicare Choice, are owned by a subsidiary of Aveta Inc., a New Jersey-based managed healthcare services company. [...]

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KBR and Halliburton Must Face Fraud Claims

May 27, 2014

A federal judge ruled today that Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) and Halliburton must face whistleblower claims that they bilked money from the government. A former KBR employee filed the whistleblower lawsuit in 2005, claiming that KBR, Halliburton, Service Employees International, KBR Services Inc. and KBR Technical Services inflated the amount of soldiers using KBR [...]

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New Hampshire Drywall Company Sued for Misclassifying Contractors

May 22, 2014

A New Hampshire drywall company and its owner are being sued for allegedly misclassifying workers as independent contractors. According to the lawsuit filed last week, Universal Drywall LLC and its owner, Richard Pelletier violated the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act and the Massachusetts False Claims Act by misclassifying workers in order to gain unfair advantage over [...]

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Former WellCare CEO to Serve Prison Time for Health Care Fraud

May 19, 2014

Todd S. Farha, the former Chief Executive Officer of WellCare, was sentenced today in the Middle District of Florida to serve three years in prison for defrauding Florida’s Medicare program. A federal jury convicted the 45-year-old Tampa resident on two counts of health care fraud on June 10, 2013. WellCare operates health maintenance organizations (HMOs) [...]

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