Whistleblower Receives $14.7 Million For Uncovering Billing Scam
U.S. District Judge Virginia Hopkins entered judgment in the amount of $14,708,630.06 on behalf of whistleblower Barry Taul, who uncovered and reported an illegal kickback and false billing scheme that defrauded the Alabama Organ Center and taxpayers. A jury found in favor of Mr. Taul in the whistleblower case on Feb. 5.
After discovering the fraud perpetrated by Nagel Enterprises, Inc., d/b/a Abanks Mortuary & Crematory and its owner Jed Nagel, Mr. Taul suffered physical abuse at the hands of his employers, as well as death threats against him and his family in an effort to intimidate him so he would not report the wrongdoing. After he eventually left his job with that company and reported the fraud, Mr. Taul was disparaged and falsely maligned to future employers, resulting in his being wrongly terminated from other positions. Mr. Taul was represented by Beasley Allen lawyers Larry Golston, Lance Gould and Leon Hampton.
The final judgment ordered damages in the amount of $1,769,710.02, which were trebled pursuant to 31 U.S.C. § 3729(a). As a result, the Court entered judgment in the amount of $5,309,130.06 against both defendants. The jury found 1,709 violations of the False Claims Act, leading the court to assess a civil penalty in the amount of $5,500 per claim and enter a civil penalties judgment of $9,399,500 against both defendants. As a whistleblower award, Plaintiff Barry Taul is entitled to 27.5 percent of the proceeds of the lawsuit.
“Mr. Taul faced personal danger to do the right thing and report it when he witnessed illegal activity that was cheating government health care programs,” said Golston. “His employer went to great lengths to silence him, even to the point of threatening to cremate him alive! This was one of the most horrifying cases I’ve seen involving intimidation and retaliation against a whistleblower. My client was just trying to do the right thing. We feel very gratified to have been able to help him bring these wrongdoers to justice.”
Mr. Taul began working for Nagel-Abanks in June 2006. The funeral home and crematorium had an arrangement with the Alabama Organ Center to collect tissues for life-saving transplants and medical research prior to the deceased being cremated. During the course of his employment, Mr. Taul uncovered a scheme whereby Defendants Nagel-Abanks and its owner Jed Nagel made illegal kickback payments to Demosthenes “Dem” Lalisan, Director of the Alabama Organ Center, and Richard Alan Hicks, Associate Director of the Alabama Organ Center, in exchange for contractual referral business from the Alabama Organ Center. He additionally discovered fraudulent charges were added to the company’s books in order to obtain unwarranted payment from the Alabama Organ Center.
The scheme violated the federal False Claims Act and the Anti-Kickback Statute. It was estimated the scheme allowed Nagel-Abanks to bill up to $60,000 each month in false charges to the Alabama Organ Center.
The complaint was filed in the United States District Court Northern District of Alabama Southern Division.