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Constantine Cannon Celebrates a Record-Shattering Year of Whistleblower Rewards

It has been a big year for our whistleblower clients

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Successes

Members of the Constantine Cannon Whistleblower Lawyer Team have been responsible for a string of major whistleblower successes over more than a decade.  We had a record-shattering year in 2021, and have a track record of success in achieving the maximum possible awards for our clients.  Our successes include the following:

Ocean Carriers — Government Contracting Fraud/Prohibited Charges.

Two of our whistleblower attorneys led the representation of a whistleblower who brought a qui tam action under the False Claims Act against two ocean carriers alleging they included in their government invoices charges specifically disallowed under the government contract. The ocean carriers did not have direct contracts with the government and submitted their invoices to parties who in turn presented them to the Department of Defense. Although the government declined to intervene because of uncertainties created by the lack of direct interaction between the defendants and the United States, our whistleblower lawyers pressed ahead, defeating multiple motions to dismiss and aggressively moving forward with discovery. The action settled with both defendants, and the whistleblower was awarded 28% of the government’s recovery. See Pacific Business News and Ship and Bunker News for more.

Health Line Clinical Laboratories — Medicare Fraud/Unnecessary on Nonexistent Testing ($10 million).

One of our whistleblower attorneys led the representation of two whistleblowers who brought a qui tam action under the False Claims Act alleging the medical laboratory was charging for tests not performed or not necessary. For many of the tests involved, records suggested treating physicians had ordered over inclusive “747” panels, and the defense relied heavily on these order forms. The Department of Justice was persuaded the defendants’ conduct caused the unnecessary testing and intervened. Following the defeat of motions to dismiss and focused discovery the case settled for $10 million. The whistleblowers received 18% of the government recovery.

Zwanger-Pesiri Radiology – Medicare and Medicaid Fraud ($10.5M).

Two of our whistleblower attorneys led the representation of Linda Gibb and Donna Geraci, former billing specialists at Zwanger-Pesiri Radiology in Long Island, New York. Ms. Geraci and Ms. Gibb brought a qui tam action under the False Claims Act (FCA) against Zwanger-Pesiri, alleging the company defrauded the government by performing unnecessary testing, charging for services not performed, and using uncredentialed physicians. The government joined the case, and in 2016, Zwanger-Pesiri paid $8.1M to settle civil allegations in the FCA case, as well as $2.4M in related criminal forfeiture. Ms. Geraci and Ms. Gibb received a whistleblower award of $1.25M collectively. See DOJ for more.

Cisco Systems, Inc. – Government Contract Fraud/Non-Conforming Product ($8.6 million)

Constantine Cannon represented whistleblower James Glenn against Cisco in the first cybersecurity whistleblower case ever successfully resolved under the False Claims Act. Cisco Systems, Inc. agreed to an $8.6 million settlement to resolve allegations it knowingly sold vulnerable video surveillance software to federal, state and local government agencies, exposing government systems to the risk of unauthorized access and the manipulation of vital information. The whistleblower, who worked in Europe for a Cisco partner, had reported critical security vulnerabilities in the software to Cisco, but Cisco had continued to sell the technology to government entities, including the District of Columbia and 15 states, despite the fact that the software failed to comply with FAR procurement standards that require basic cybersecurity controls, including those set forth by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.  Read more: Press Release; Whistleblower Insider

Centric Parts – Customs Fraud ($8 million)

In a customs fraud victory, the Constantine Cannon team represented whistleblower Steve Hughes in his successful False Claims Act action against his former employer, auto parts distributor CWD, LLC.  Hughes alleged that CWD, which does business as Centric Parts, misclassified brake pads imported from Asia as “unmounted” brake pads when they were, in fact, brake pads mounted to a metal backing plate, and therefor subject to a 2.5% tariff.  When Hughes learned of the misclassification, he immediately advised the CEO and CFO to disclose the issue to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  Instead, the company concealed the misclassification and retaliated against Hughes.  As a result of Centric’s alleged omissions and false statements regarding its imported products, the company knowingly evaded millions of dollars of customs duties it owed to the United States.  The $8 million settlement resolved the Hughes lawsuit and one other qui tam action filed by a different whistleblower.  The whistleblowers shared a $1.48 million whistleblower award, representing 18.5% of the government’s recovery.  Whistleblower Insider; Press release

Securities Fraud ($1.7 million SEC whistleblower award)

Constantine Cannon’s whistleblower team secured a $1.7 million award for an SEC whistleblower client.  The client, a former company insider, provided extensive and ongoing assistance to the SEC in its investigation of a major international company.  Significantly, Constantine Cannon convinced the SEC to increase our client’s award, acknowledging not only our client’s significant investigative assistance but also the risks the client took to alert investors to the misconduct and the justified fear of retaliation the client faced as an employee of the company.  The SEC increases a whistleblower’s award in fewer than 7% of cases.  See Constantine Cannon Client Scores SEC Whistleblower Win for more information.

Group Health Cooperative (now a subsidiary of Kaiser Permanente) – Medicare Advantage Fraud ($6.375 million)

Constantine Cannon represents whistleblower Teresa Ross against Group Health Cooperative, an insurance company that participates in the Medicare Advantage program. GHC has agreed to pay $6.375 million to resolve allegations that the insurance plan improperly collected money from the Medicare Advantage program by overstating how sick its beneficiaries were. Ms. Ross is a former employee of GHC, where she worked for 14 years; her most recent position was the director of risk adjustment services. In her complaint, Ms. Ross alleged that GHC had improperly relied on coders’ interpretations of diagnostic tests, prescriptions, and entries in problem lists to come up with diagnoses and that it had also submitted other codes that were false because they were diagnosed by inappropriate providers, fell outside service year, or the patient had no evidence of a current condition. See Press Release and Whistleblower Insider for more.

Mid Dakota Clinic – Medicare Fraud/ASC Kickbacks ($5.45M)

The Constantine Cannon team represented Jeffery Neuberger, the former CEO of a medical group in North Dakota, in a 2017 False Claims Act case alleging a scheme in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) between the medical group and its wholly owned ambulatory surgery center (ASC).  The AKS is intended to prevent abuses (such as unnecessary treatments) that can occur when a doctor makes money from referring patients for goods or services.  The ASC safe-harbor to the AKS is limited; it essentially permits ASC ownership only by surgeons who perform procedures or surgeries in the ASC as a functional extension of his or her office.  The lawsuit alleges that all of the multi-practice physician owners profited from referrals, not only the surgeons, and that they refused to give up this lucrative income stream despite knowing that it violated the AKS.  In November 2019, Mid Dakota Clinic, its affiliated building partnership, and insurer agreed to pay the United States $4.15 million to resolve the case.  The clinic additionally paid $1.3 million for the whistleblower’s attorneys’ fees and costs, for a total payment of $5.45 million.  The United States awarded Mr. Neuberger a 25% relator’s share of its recovery.

Rose Cancer Center — Medicare Fraud ($5.7 million).

Two of our whistleblower attorneys co-led the representation of Kristi Beeson who reported Medicare fraud violations at her former employer Rose Cancer Center in Mississippi. Ms. Beeson, who was a laboratory technician for the clinic, brought a qui tam action under the False Claims Act against the clinic alleging, among other things, unqualified technicians performing bone marrow biopsies, diluting chemotherapy drugs, and doctoring patient records to conceal the clinic’s fraudulent Medicare billings. The physician who owned and ran the practice, Dr. Meera Sachdeva, plead guilty to various Medicare fraud violations, forfeited $5.7 million, and is now serving a 20 year prison sentence for her crimes. Ms. Beeson, along with three other whistleblowers, collectively received a whistleblower award of $525,000 for their efforts in exposing the fraud. See Clarion Ledger for more.

NEC — Government Contracting/Bribes and Kickbacks ($5 million).

One of our whistleblower attorneys was hired by the San Francisco Unified School District to pursue a False Claims Act case against NEC Business Network Solutions, a large supplier of computer systems under the government’s “E-Rate” program. E-Rate provided government subsidies for the purchase of computer equipment for school classrooms, seeking to bridge the “digital divide.” According to the complaint, NEC paid bribes and kickbacks to school officials, causing them to order excess equipment purchased with federal funds. One of the recipients of the illegal bribes was convicted and sentenced to 21 months in prison. Using a novel theory, the San Francisco school district “blew the whistle” on the company, and received an award of $5 million. See NY Times for more.

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