James Hoyer, P.A. is proud to announce that our client Karin Berntsen was named Whistleblower of the Year at the annual Taxpayers Against Fraud awards dinner, in Washington, D.C. This marks the second time in the past three years that a James Hoyer client has been bestowed with this great honor.
Ms. Berntsen blew the whistle on Prime Healthcare, the 5th largest healthcare system in the country, exposing evidence of improper billing and upcoding which she believed was putting patients at risk and abusing taxpayer dollars. Her fearless, tireless, seven-year commitment to the case resulted in the company paying $65 million dollars to settle civil charges of fraud against the government.
“I am very honored to be selected as the 2018 Whistleblower of the Year by Taxpayers Against Fraud,” Ms. Berntsen said. “It wasn’t easy, but sometimes that makes you more determined. The more obstacles I had, the stronger it made me. I knew the taxpayers were being cheated and the patients were put at risk, so coming forward was just the right thing to do.”
It took incredible courage and perseverance for Ms. Berntsen to continue with the case for seven long years, despite extreme personal hardship, which included serious illnesses, surgeries, and hospitalizations. Nevertheless, she endured through it all, remaining in place as an employee at Prime’s Alvarado Hospital in San Diego and wearing a wire for the FBI on multiple occasions to record evidence.
Partner Elaine Stromgren accepts the Whistleblower of the Year Award on behalf of James Hoyer client Karin Berntsen
“Karin’s dedication to justice was unwavering. I cannot imagine a more deserving individual for this prestigious honor. She put her career on the line against a powerful company, but through it all, she remained strong,” said James Hoyer Partner Elaine Stromgren, Ms. Berntsen’s lead attorney, who accepted the award on her behalf at the TAF dinner Thursday night in Washington, D.C.
Ms. Berntsen has dedicated her life to ensuring patient safety. She began her career as a registered nurse, then served as a patient safety officer, and also authored two published books on patient safety before eventually becoming Director of Performance Improvement at Alvarado Hospital. Her concern for the well-being of the patients was one of her main motivations for coming forward as a whistleblower.
“I continually witnessed blatant healthcare fraud at the highest level of the organization. The patients were becoming commodities. They were becoming dollar signs, not people,” Ms. Berntsen said.
Ms. Berntsen expressed her appreciation for receiving the award in a videotaped statement played at the awards dinner because she was unable to attend due to a recent surgery. Here is an excerpt:
“When my complaints fell on deaf ears and my job was threatened, I researched my options and found the James Hoyer investigative law firm. They had a solid record of success and stellar professionals working there.
I interviewed with Al Scudieri a retired FBI agent with a wealth of experience. My attorney Elaine Stromgren worked tirelessly with other attorneys and the government to expose the fraud at this organization.
Attorneys Clark Bolton, Elaine Stromgren & Jesse Hoyer at the TAF awards dinner.
It took seven years, and we were eventually headed toward trial, but with the work of many, we reached a successful settlement this year. I am very grateful to that team. I want to say a very special thank you to Taxpayers Against Fraud for this wonderful recognition.”
Please join James Hoyer in congratulating Karin for this deserving recognition.
“We are proud to stand beside Karin and grateful we could assist her in this important battle on behalf of patients and taxpayers,” Stromgren said. “The courage it takes to become a whistleblower is enormous, and we hope her success will inspire others to come forward to do the right thing when they witness fraud against the government.”