WASHINGTON (Aug. 30, 2016) — Whistleblower Lori Moore will receive $200,000 for helping U.S. taxpayers to recover a $1 million settlement from Monique Barbour, a Florida ophthalmologist accused of defrauding Medicare to support a lavish lifestyle that included an attempt to become a pop star under the pseudonym “Anayya Von Kitten.”
The Employment Law Group® law firm represented Ms. Moore in the civil case, which alleged that Dr. Barbour, the owner of Clear Vue Eye Center in Lake Worth, Fla., overbilled the government’s Medicare insurance program in violation of the federal False Claims Act and the Florida False Claims Act.
While Dr. Barbour has settled with the federal government, claims under Florida state law remain pending.
Ms. Moore served as Dr. Barbour’s office manager and personal assistant until she was fired after questioning practices that helped to finance Dr. Barbour’s fast-lane South Florida lifestyle — a lifestyle that involved night clubbing, multiple homes, international travel, music-publishing ventures, and ownership of a semi-professional basketball team.
In her guise as Anayya Von Kitten, Dr. Barbour released several YouTube videos featuring her heavily produced electronic dance music. She also made a trailer for a proposed reality-television show, Staying in Check, that spliced together vignettes from her music career and consultations with real ophthalmology patients.
Ms. Moore alleged that Dr. Barbour fired her in 2014 after Ms. Moore urged the doctor to come clean about improper Medicare billing. According to court documents unsealed today, Ms. Moore had witnessed numerous instances of unbundling, upcoding, and other inappropriate Medicare billing methods.
“When I first joined Dr. Barbour, I was excited about helping her to grow her practice,” said Ms. Moore. “But as time went on I concluded that she was using Medicare — taxpayer money — to help fund her lifestyle. I couldn’t be a part of that, so I asked her to stop. I was shocked when she fired me, but I couldn’t walk away and let it continue.”
Ms. Moore filed a complaint against Clear Vue and Dr. Barbour under laws including federal False Claims Act. That statute, originally signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, makes it illegal to deceive the federal government for financial gain.
The law includes a “qui tam” provision that allows whistleblowers to file a legal complaint on behalf of the government and — if they prevail — to receive a share of the proceeds.
“It took a lot of courage for Lori to stand up to the person who fired her,” said David L. Scher, a principal of The Employment Law Group and Ms. Moore’s lead attorney. “Many employees are aware of wrongdoing and just look the other way. Maybe they figure it’s not their problem, or that blowing the whistle is just too hard. Lori did the right thing, and I am pleased that she will be rewarded for it.”
In the last fiscal year, taxpayers recovered more than $1.8 billion as a result of lawsuits filed by whistleblowers against healthcare providers under the False Claims Act. The whistleblowers in these cases — who ranged from hospital executives to medical professionals to office staff — received about $330 million in rewards.