The whistleblower who exposed allegations that Verizon bilked the federal government out of tens of millions of dollars said prosecutors in Washington are unfairly trying to minimize the role he played in the case.
The whistleblower, Stephen Shea, and his company 2Probe LLC, are demanding millions more in compensation for his role in alerting the U.S. Justice Department to Verizon’s allegedly fraudulent activity.
Shea’s lawyer, Phillips & Cohen partner Colette Matzzie, said in a filing (.pdf) in Washington federal district court the government “fundamentally mischaracterizes the record of four years of substantial contributions” from Shea.
Shea, his lawyer said, had “dedication and commitment to the case. He knew what the carrier was doing to taxpayers was wrong. He gave up a lucrative consulting career to be able to bring this case.”
Verizon earlier this year agreed to pay the government $93.5 million to resolve claims the company improperly billed the government for certain charges and taxes.
Prosecutors argue the whistleblower should only receive the minimum compensation allowed under the law, 15%, or $13,725,000. The government, prosecutors said in recent court papers, conducted an extensive investigation that did not rely on help from Shea.
Shea, according to prosecutors, did not have first-hand knowledge of Verizon’s billing. Matzzie, citing unrelated false claims cases, said knowledge of actual false claims isn’t essential for a person to know that a fraudulent scheme is taking place.
Shea’s expertise in the telecommunications industry, Matzzie said, was crucial for the government to understand the information that it had already collected through a Government Services Administration audit. “There is no indication that GSA would have understood the significance of the documents in its files without (Shea),” Matzzie said.
U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler has not indicated when she will rule on the dispute.