Chicago Qui Tam Attorney Michael I. Behn Discusses Successful Defense Contract Fraud Prosecutions at U.S. Department of Defense Symposium

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Nationally recognized whistleblower lawyer Michael I. Behn of Chicago, Illinois, will address the United States Department of Defense Procurement Fraud Working Group Training Seminar to help foster cooperation between whistleblowers, their attorneys, and the Department of Defense. Behn and one of his clients, Jim Holzrichter, will speak to Department of Defense attorneys, investigators and contract officers about working with whistleblowers in cases brought under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. Holzrichter and Behn successfully prosecuted Northrop Grumman Corp. in a defense contracting case that resulted in settlement payments of $134 million. For over 15 years, Behn has represented whistleblowers who report fraud against the government, primarily in defense contracting and Medicaid fraud cases. Behn's whistleblower clients, known as "qui tam" relators, include engineers, pharmacists, executives, and auditors.

Michael I. Behn, of Behn & Wyetzner, Chicago, Illinois, will give a whistleblower lawyer's perspective on successfully prosecuting defense contracting fraud at the United States Department of Defense Procurement Fraud Working Group Training Seminar. The training advances more effective fraud detection and law enforcement by prosecutors, investigators and contract officers with the Department of Defense, Army, Navy and Air Force. Behn will speak on a panel discussing "Working with Qui Tam Relators," with James Holzrichter, a successful relator and Behn's client; Richard Zott, Special Agent in Charge of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service; and Kay Lindbeck, Fraud Counsel, Defense Contract Management Agency, Contract Integrity Center.

The panel will discuss lessons learned from various successful False Claims Act prosecutions, particularly Holzrichter's qui tam action that settled through $134 million in payments by Northrop Grumman Corporation. The qui tam action was filed in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, Illinois (No. 89 C 6111). Holzrichter was employed at Northrop's Defense Systems Division near Chicago, where Northrop designed and built Electronic Countermeasure devices for various military aircraft including the B-1, B-2, and F-15. After being assigned to conduct internal audits of material accounting, Holzrichter discovered, as alleged in his qui tam complaint, systemic fraud in the company's accounting for materials and costs. He voluntary reported the conduct to the Department of Defense, and fully cooperated with the government's investigation. Holzrichter lost his job after his cooperation was discovered, and was left destitute.

Holzrichter and Behn worked together for over a decade in litigation against Northrop, overcoming numerous personal and legal obstacles before forcing the company to settle. "Jim's a remarkable man and courageous citizen who had the integrity and fortitude to take action," said Behn. "Without Jim and other relators, billions of dollars in fraud would go undetected. The qui tam provisions in False Claims Act make it possible for whistleblowers to help the government prosecute defense contracting frauds." The False Claims Act allows the government to collect up to three times the amount defrauded, plus significant civil penalties.

The Department of Defense program highlights the role of whistleblowers in protecting members of the armed forces and taxpayers. The "qui tam" provisions of the False Claims Act encourage citizens with knowledge of fraud against the government (called "relators") to work with government agents in prosecuting false claims. Qui tam relators can receive between 15 and 30 percent of the governments' recovery.

Behn and his whistleblower clients have worked closely with the Department of Defense for over 15 years. Behn also represented successful qui tam whistleblowers in a $15 million defense contracting fraud settlement with Chicago advertising agency Leo Burnett involving false claims to the Army in connection with the "Army of One" and other advertising campaigns. The case was also handled in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, Illinois (No. 04 C 3897)

Both Holzrichter and Behn have received national honors for their roles in aiding the government prosecution of defense contracting fraud. Holzrichter was honored as a "Whistleblower of the Year," for creating a mentoring program for relators after succeeding in his arduous battle with Northrop. Behn had also been honored as the first whistleblowers' "Lawyer of the Year" by Washington, D.C.-based Taxpayers Against Fraud ("TAF"). TAF's members are attorneys and whistleblowers who pursue "qui tam" cases, under federal and state False Claims Acts. The qui tam lawyers' group lauded Behn's "tenacity, management skills and dedication" in his representation of Holzrichter and other relators under the False Claims Act.

Behn founded the Chicago, Illinois whistleblowers' law firm Behn & Wyetzner, Chartered, with his partner, employment-lawyer Linda Wyetzner, who was formerly an attorney for the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Behn & Wyetzner garnered national attention for representing a pharmacist-whistleblower in a $35 million multi-state Medicaid fraud settlement with Walgreens pharmacies of a qui tam False Claims Act case involving generic drug switching. Other Medicaid fraud cases pursued by the firm resulted in a $37 million qui tam settlement with CVS pharmacies, and a $50 million qui tam settlement with Omnicare, Inc., the nation's largest pharmacy for nursing homes. All three qui tam whistleblower cases were filed under in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, Illinois, docket numbers 03 C 744 (Walgreens), 03 C 742 (CVS) and 01 C 7433 (Omnicare).

Court filings and other details about these cases and qui tam relator pharmacists can be found at the reference Web site, http://www.PharmacyFraudSettlement.com.

Behn & Wyetzner is part of the Whistleblower Action Network, a team of attorneys who have dedicated their law practices to representing citizens-whistleblowers willing to help state and federal government efforts to fight fraud. Whistleblower Action attorneys include Steven H. Cohen of the Cohen Law Group in Chicago, Illinois, and L. Timothy Terry of The Terry Law Firm of Carson City, Nevada.

Further details about the Whistleblower Action Network, Behn & Wyetzner, qui tam actions, relators, whistleblower protection, Medicare and Medicaid fraud, pharmaceutical and pharmacy fraud, procurement fraud, the federal False Claims Act, and state False Claims Acts can be found at http://www.WhistleblowerAction.com.

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