Sentencing continues in California spine kickback case: 6 developments in 4+ years


In January 2018, former Long Beach, Calif.-based Pacific Hospital owner Michael Drobot was found guilty of paying spine surgery kickbacks. Since then, multiple people involved in the scheme have been sentenced, the latest in August 2022.

Here's a timeline of how the case unfolded:

January 2018

Mr. Drobot was sentenced to a five-year and three-month federal prison sentence for conspiracy and paying illegal kickbacks. As the hospital's owner, he hatched plans to pay physicians illegal kickbacks to refer workers' compensation patients to the hospital for spine surgeries. The 15-year scheme amounted to $500 million in fraudulent bills and $40 million in illegal kickbacks.

June 2018

Three surgeons in Corona Del Mar, Irvine and Dana Point, Calif., were charged for their alleged involvement with Mr. Drobot's scheme. 

November 2019

Daniel Capen, MD, was sentenced to 30 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy and receiving kickbacks at Pacific Hospital. Dr. Capen received more than $5 million in kickbacks to perform hundreds of spinal surgeries at the hospital. He referred patients to Pacific Hospital and used medical devices from a company affiliated with the hospital to perform surgeries.

January 2021

Former President Donald Trump gave a full pardon to Faustino Bernadett, MD, who was sentenced to 15 months in prison for his role in an illegal kickback scheme that steered spine surgeries to a hospital he had owned. Dr. Bernadett bought the hospital from Michael Drobot in 2005. 

June 2022

A 69-year-old accountant who enabled a scheme allowing kickbacks for spine surgery referrals was sentenced to 15 months in prison. George William Hammer was the financial officer for companies controlled by Mr. Drobot and facilitated payments to people receiving bribes and kickbacks.

August 2022

A California chiropractor was sentenced to 14 months in prison for his role in the kickback case. Brian Carrico pleaded guilty to one count of soliciting kickbacks. As of Aug. 26, 22 defendants have been convicted for roles in the scheme, according to the Justice Department.

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