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Large whistleblower lawsuit unsealed in Milwaukee federal court

MILWAUKEE (WTAQ) - A former official of a Milwaukee aerospace firm has filed a lawsuit which accuses the company of overbilling the military by almost $50 million for aircraft parts.

Mary Patzer of Derco Aerospace said she tried taking her concerns about the alleged scheme to a manager of her parent firm in 2010 -- and she was later terminated due to a "reduction in force."

She filed her whistleblower suit in 2011, but it was sealed until Milwaukee Federal Judge Rudolph Randa released it this week.

Patzer's attorney, Nola Hitchcock Cross, said the false billing to the Pentagon went back to at least mid-2006. If Patzer wins her suit, the attorney said the government would be entitled for triple damages, plus penalties for each false payment received by Derco.

Hitchcock Cross said the total damages could be up to $150 million -- and it might be the largest whistleblower suit ever filed in Wisconsin under the federal False Claims Act.

For blowing the whistle, Patzer could get up to 25 percent of anything Derco's parent firm, Sikorsky Aircraft, might have to pay back. Sikorsky says the lawsuit has no merit, and the firm will fight it.

(Story courtesy of Wheeler News Service)