Chicago Attorney Michael I. Behn Teams Government Agents with Whistleblowers at Training to Target Billions Stolen by Fraud

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At a recent training, Chicago attorney Michael I. Behn taught government agents how to better work with whistleblowers to pursue billions of dollars in fraud stolen from government programs.

“Whistleblowers know where the bodies are buried,” said Michael I. Behn, a Chicago trial lawyer. “But instead of uncovering shallow graves, whistleblowers uncover a key email or foreign bank account that can blow a fraud case wide open.”

It was like something out of a movie. In a non-descript government facility here in Chicago, Illinois, badge-bearing government agents were working with undercover informants to learn about billion-dollar fraud schemes cheating taxpayers.

The agents and whistleblowers targeted “Fraudsters” – the companies that steal from government programs through fraud -- at a training session given by the Illinois Association of Inspectors General. The Inspectors General are government agents tasked with rooting out fraud, waste and abuse of taxpayer funds.

“Whistleblowers know where the bodies are buried,” said Michael I. Behn, a Chicago trial lawyer. “But instead of uncovering shallow graves, whistleblowers uncover a key email or foreign bank account that can blow a fraud case wide open.” Behn, a former federal prosecutor, has been representing whistleblowers for decades. He founded the Behn & Wyetzner law firm and is of counsel to Siprut PC, both in Chicago. Behn gave the government agents tips for best utilizing whistleblowers in their investigations. (See http://www.BehnWyetzner.com and http://www.Siprut.com)

The Inspectors General also heard from James Holzrichter, who had worked as an undercover agent for the government. His case ultimately resulted in Northrop Grumman paying back $134 million, the largest settlement in Illinois that year. Holzrichter poignantly explained the challenges faced by him and his family through his involvement in the case, which took 17 years to resolve. Holzrichter and his family ended up homeless for an extended period, he and his wife working seven jobs just to stay afloat. Holzrichter’s case, brought in Chicago’s federal court, is titled United States ex rel. Robinson and Holzrichter v. Northrop Grumman (No. 89 C 6111).

“Jim is an American hero, and I don’t use that term lightly.” said Behn, who represented Holzrichter for over a decade. “He and his family sacrificed their own well-being to stand up for integrity in providing our national defense.”

Both Holzrichter and Behn have received national honors for their roles in aiding the government's prosecution of fraud. Holzrichter was honored as a "Whistleblower of the Year," for creating a mentoring program after succeeding in his arduous battle with Northrop. Behn had also been honored as the first "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. (See https://www.behnwyetzner.com/whistleblowers/)

Federal and state False Claims Acts allow private citizens with knowledge of fraud to help the government recover ill-gotten gains and additional civil penalties. Through "qui tam" provisions of False Claims Acts, private citizens are empowered to sue when they witness fraud against the government. These statutes allow the government to collect up to three times the amount defrauded, in addition to civil penalties of over $11,000 per false claim. Behn noted that whistleblowers, known as “qui tam relators,” can receive between 15 and 30 percent of the government's recovery. (See https://www.behnwyetzner.com/whistleblower-faqs/)

With the law firm Behn & Wyetzner, the government has achieved extensive recoveries for taxpayers through false claims actions brought on behalf of the firm’s whistleblower clients. Recent cases recovered over $120 million in multi-state Medicaid fraud settlements of drug switching allegations against Walgreens, CVS, and Omnicare. All three qui tam whistleblower cases were filed under federal and state False Claims Acts in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, Illinois, docket numbers 03 C 744 (Walgreens), 03 C 742 (CVS) and 01 C 7433 (Omnicare). The firm also represented the pharmacist in cases alleging that Johnson & Johnson paid kickbacks to influence drug selections in nursing homes, which recovered over $170 million (D. Mass. 07 CV 10288-RGS). Other major cases have recovered hundreds of millions in taxpayer funds for fraud in defense contracting and other federally funded industries. (See https://www.behnwyetzner.com/whistleblower-compensation-awards/)

Siprut PC has been recognized for its “high-stakes, high-profile cases against large defendants.” Siprut PC was named to the National Law Journal “Hot List” of Plaintiffs’ law firms in 2016, one of only 12 law firms in the United States to receive this distinction. The firm’s primary litigation groups include false claims act litigation; plaintiffs’ class action litigation; and intellectual property and patent litigation; and business litigation. Spirit PC has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of plaintiffs in complex litigation, including millions of dollars on behalf of the government in whistleblower actions.

Further details about Behn & Wyetzner, Siprut PC, qui tam actions, relators, Medicare and Medicaid fraud, pharmaceutical and pharmacy fraud, and procurement fraud can be found at http://www.BehnWyetzner.com and http://www.Siprut.com.

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