Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Business

WellCare Health Plans whistle-blower to receive about $21 million

TAMPA — Whistle-blower Sean Hellein will receive nearly $21 million for triggering a successful federal inquiry into Medicare and Medicaid fraud at his former Tampa employer, WellCare Health Plans.

Hellein in late February withdrew his objections to a pending $137.5 million civil settlement with WellCare. But the size of his payout was unclear until Tuesday, when U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill announced the settlement of all four lawsuits initiated by whistle-blowers.

Three of the suits were in the U.S. Middle District of Florida in Tampa, the fourth in the District of Connecticut.

In mid 2006, Hellein, then a senior financial analyst with WellCare, secretly recorded executives discussing ways to double bill for patient services. WellCare, which provides managed-care plans for 2.6 million people on Medicare and Medicaid, was required to spend a certain percentage of the government's money on care or refund the difference.

Based on Hellein's information, the FBI raided WellCare's Tampa headquarters in October 2007. WellCare previously settled a shareholders' class-action lawsuit.

Resolution of the civil suits brings total recoveries from WellCare to $217.5 million. O'Neill said recovered funds from restitution and the settlement will go to federal and state programs that suffered losses because of the fraud, while forfeited funds will go to law enforcement to help fund future investigations.

Whistle-blowers who bring a lawsuit under the False Claims Act are entitled to receive a percentage of the recovery. Hellein's award of $20.75 million represents his share of the $40 million in restitution received by the United States plus the federal portion of the $137.5 million civil settlement.

Well-known Tampa lawyer Barry Cohen represented Hellein.

Three other parties in the case — Clark Bolton, SF United Partners and Eugene Gonzalez — will split about $4.66 million and be entitled to more money if WellCare makes a contingency payment due to a change in ownership. Under the civil settlement, WellCare is on the hook for an additional $35 million payment if the company is sold or there is a change in control within three years.

WellCare separately told investors Tuesday that state and federal prosecutors will seek dismissal of any pending criminal charges against the company within five days. Five former WellCare executives, including CEO Todd Farha, chief financial officer Paul Behrens and general counsel Thaddeus Bereday, still face criminal charges.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8242.

Comments
Tampa airport ranks No. 4 for most affordable parking rates

Tampa airport ranks No. 4 for most affordable parking rates

TAMPA — Holiday flight prices may be high, but parking rates at Tampa International Airport are a little more manageable. TIA has the fourth-cheapest parking rates in the country, a study by travel and expense app company TravelBank said. TIA, the st...
Updated: 8 minutes ago

Hernando Business Digest for Dec. 15

EventsDISCOUNT OFFERED TO THOSE WHO DONATE TO HELP HOMELESS: In advance of National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, BonWorth clothing store, 12987 Cortez Blvd., Spring Hill, will offer a 10 percent discount on purchases to those who donate unwanted c...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Target aims to boost same-day delivery by acquiring Shipt

Target aims to boost same-day delivery by acquiring Shipt

NEW YORK — Target plans to boost its same-day delivery capability by paying $550 million for Shipt, its latest move to try to catch up with Amazon. Shipt delivers groceries to its members, who pay $99 a year. Target says it will add more products to...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Spirit Airlines names new president, CEO for 2019

Spirit Airlines names new president, CEO for 2019

Spirit Airlines, the South Florida-based budget airline, is gearing up for new leadership. Bob Fornaro, president and CEO since January 2016, will step down from his position in early 2019. He will be succeeded by Ted Christie, the airline’s current ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Three things to watch for at the Federal Reserve meeting today

Three things to watch for at the Federal Reserve meeting today

WASHINGTON — On the day when Janet Yellen will hold her final news conference as Federal Reserve chair, the Fed has left little doubt what it plans to do Wednesday: Raise its benchmark interest rate for the third time this year. The increase would be...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Picturing something different: St. Petersburg man finds second career as photographer

Picturing something different: St. Petersburg man finds second career as photographer

A chance meeting during a really tough time in Rossie Newson’s life resulted in him finding a talent he never knew he had. After leaving his job as an illustrator at the Tampa Bay Times in 2009, Newson devoted most of his time and energy to his fathe...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Flipping homes for big profits is getting harder in Tampa Bay

Flipping homes for big profits is getting harder in Tampa Bay

Michael Sadeghpour was just 18 when he did his first flip.Using money saved from a job and borrowed from his grandmother, he bought a foreclosed condo in north Pinellas County for $67,000. He did some inexpensive renovations and flipped it for $125,0...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Wee Gallery entrepreneurs turned black-and-white baby mural into thriving business

Wee Gallery entrepreneurs turned black-and-white baby mural into thriving business

When Surya Sajnani and Dave Pinto were expecting their first child in 2002, she painted a mural with black and white zebras on one wall of the nursery. The couple had read that a baby’s eyes are stimulated by repeating patterns of black and white. "I...
Published: 12/13/17
Six kitchen gadgets that are completely useless

Six kitchen gadgets that are completely useless

If you’re buying me a gift this year, don’t get me an Instant Pot. I’m serious. I don’t subscribe to the "you can never be too thin or too rich" school of thought, but the "you can never have too much kitchen cabinet space" is dead right in my book. ...
Published: 12/13/17
Vendors and shoppers pack Airport Farmers & Flea Market for holiday season

Vendors and shoppers pack Airport Farmers & Flea Market for holiday season

BROOKSVILLE — With 300 to 400 vendors packing the Airport Farmers & Flea Market on recent weekends, controlled chaos has been the order of the day for Dorri Spoto, who manages the 16-acre site with her husband, Joe Spoto."It’s quite hustle and bustle...
Published: 12/13/17