The Federal Bureau of Investigation is reportedly investigating potential purchasing fraud at the Memphis Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
During the last full week of March, whistleblower and former Memphis VA employee Sean Higgins went to the local FBI field office to report on two suspicious purchases during his tenure at the hospital. Higgins told The Daily Caller that the agent in charge told him the new accusations would be added to an ongoing investigation.
The FBI, Higgins said, is currently investigating Andre Reddick, a former employee, for a bogus purchase order scheme he — along with a partner outside the VA — allegedly put in purchase orders for equipment not approved by the VA that would be sent to his accomplice’s business. The equipment, bought with VA money, would then be resold, according to the allegation.
“Andre Reddick is now being investigated by the IG and FBI for the fraud in a bogus purchase order scheme; he was escorted off the property by VA police and computer was seized by VA police,” Higgins said.
Joel Siskovic, the Memphis field office media coordinator, declined to comment, citing longstanding policy by the FBI not to confirm or deny any ongoing investigations.
Higgins, who was initially reticent to share Reddick’s name, revealed it after he felt the Memphis VA’s media department attempted to mislead TheDC in regards to this investigation and safeguards put in place to stop fraud.
Willie Logan denied an investigation was ongoing of Reddick’s scheme and told TheDC: “There are processes in place to monitor purchases with government credit cards. If allegations are made, or some potential inappropriate purchases are found the information is immediately turned over to the Office of Inspector General for further investigation.”
Higgins told TheDC that Reddick’s transgression followed another case of fraud by an employee named Tony Jones, who worked in the pathology and lab services in the logistics department who was terminated after he misused his government credit card.
Higgins saaid he also reported to the FBI about the 2013 purchase of the VaproQuip commonly known as the “RayPod” — a decontamination machine designed to kill bed bugs.
“I am reporting a case of waste, fraud, and abuse,” Higgins said in an email to the VAOIG’s office from Nov. 1, 2013. “The VA Memphis bought for an estimated $1.5 million a Ray Pod. Yesterday, the agency tested the machine by sending live bed bugs twice and it did not kill them.”
Logan denied there have been any problems with the Ray Pod: “The VaproQuip unit passed requisite inspections and there is no reported incident of bed bugs associated with the unit.”
But Higgins said he reported getting bed bugs and was even provided with time off to treat them after he found bed bugs all over him while doing inventory of a bed which was contaminated. Higgins provided an email from his superior approving time off to decontaminate himself.
Higgins also told the FBI of an incident in which a Magnet Resonance Imaging machine costing $290,000 was supposed to be purchased in 2011 from a company in Switzerland. But when the machine came, it was from the University of Tennessee in Memphis.
The researcher who bought the machine, Dr. Karen Hasty, was affiliated with the University of Tennessee, the whistleblower said.
Higgins claimed the order was eventually straightened out by the head of the logistics department, Milton Bryant, after it was brought to his attention and Higgins won a Special Recognition award as a result.
Higgins was terminated in 2014 after it was determined he was creating a hostile work environment based on a racial comment. He is currently appealing the termination.
Higgins said all the alleged fraud originated in the logistics department when it was managed by Milton Bryant.
Logan said Bryant was head of logistics from December 2008 to January 2014.
The whistleblower said Bryant was then promoted to head of logistics at the regional office, the Vertical Integrated Services Network 9.
Sandra Glover, the media person for the VISN 9, didn’t respond for comment on the promotion.
“Milton Bryant had two major scandals while chief of logistics and accounted for losses of over a million dollars and got promoted to a VISN 9 management job.” Higgins said. “This goes to show how the VA operates. If you screw up, you move up.”