A pro-life legal firm is pressing on with a lawsuit it has filed on behalf of a former employee of the California affiliate of the Planned Parenthood abortion business alleging he was fired for exposing massive fraud.
Last year, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reinstated the lawsuit filed by a former vice president of a Planned Parenthood abortion business affiliate in California. The case details allegations of massive fraud where the abortion giant overbilled state officials.
P. Victor Gonzalez says the abortion business fired him because he raised concerns about illegal practices of overcharging the state hundreds of millions of dollars on birth control. The former Planned Parenthood official filed a lawsuit in March 2008 but, in January 2009, a federal district court judge dismissed the case and Gonzalez filed an appeal. Represented by the American Center for Law and Justice, Gonzalez is now considered a federal whistleblower and
Gonzalez says his own internal audit estimates that Planned Parenthood overcharged California taxpayers for purchasing birth control by at least $180 million. He was the vice president of finance and administration for Planned Parenthood of Los Angles and, according to a Los Angeles Times report, the overbilling began in the late 1990s.
Today, Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel for the ACLJ, said the pro-life legal group is “moving forward with our aggressive strategy against Planned Parenthood.”
“At the heart of the issue: an alleged scheme to overbill both federal and state governments to the tune of tens of millions of dollars – all at the expense of taxpayers,” he explained. “We represent a whistleblower, the former Chief Financial Officer of PP’s Los Angeles affiliate, who discovered a statewide scheme of PP affiliates dramatically marking up claims for taxpayer reimbursement. The complaint charges PP with bilking the state and federal governments of some $100 million.”
Sekulow says the federal False Claims Act forbids government contractors from submitting false or fraudulent claims for payment and it authorizes private individuals to bring suit against the offenders to recover the fraudulently obtained funds.
“A large, private law firm is defending PP and has thrown up a series of roadblocks to the case. Our legal team has been busy plowing through them,” Sekulow said. “To say there’s been a series of legal twists and turns along the way is an understatement.”
Planned Parenthood originally asked that the entire case be dismissed on jurisdictional grounds and the district court did so in November 2008 before the appeals court reinstated it after weighing its decision. Then, Planned Parenthood asked for judgement in its favor in a variety of grounds. It got the district court but rejected the argument from the abortion business to throw the case out on the federal grounds as well. But the court said Gonzalez had to provide more detail about the alleged fraud in the complaint — which ACLJ did on his behalf in May.
Planned Parenthood responded with another request for judgment in its favor and asking the judge to strike the amended complaints. Now, ACLJ attorneys have just filed a legal memorandum with the court opposing this latest request from Planned Parenthood and a hearing has been set for August 22 on the request.
“Planned Parenthood has a lot at stake and is not about to roll over,” Sekulow concluded. “A whistleblower could not possibly fight and win a case like this without major legal assistance. This is a very complicated, time-consuming case that requires legal expertise and strategic sophistication. The bottom line is this: We know that this will continue to be a lengthy legal battle, and we remain committed to pursuing Planned Parenthood in this case.”
While other public health facilities and private facilities charged the state between $8 and $9 for a cycle of birth control pills, Planned Parenthood charged almost $12. The Planned Parenthood charge to the California government was several times more than it paid for the drugs originally.
Gonzalez alleges that other California-based Planned Parenthood affiliates and Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California knowingly engaged in a scheme to defraud state and federal taxpayers by deliberately over-billing the Medi-Cal program.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Planned Parenthood overbilling occurred until state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara sponsored legislation allowing Planned Parenthood to charge more based on concerns the abortion business presented her that it would suffer financial problems without it.
However, altering the statute didn’t address the billing practices prior to it and a 2003 state audit found at least $5.2 million in overbilling in 2003 alone from just one of the nine California Planned Parenthood affiliates.
Medi-Cal officials first noticed the problems in 1997 and Planned Parenthood received two separate letters at that time pointing out the problems.
State officials now say Planned Parenthood was given conflicting information on billing practices. They say Planned Parenthood does not need to repay the millions it overcharged state taxpayers. Still, Gonzalez wants the abortion business to be held accountable for firing him abruptly on March 9, 2004 for doing his job and pointing out that it was breaking the law.
In its legal papers, ACLJ notes a California Department of Health Services audit in 2004 found more than $5 million in egregious over-billing in two years by the San Diego/Riverside Planned Parenthood affiliate.