California spine center pays $11.4M to resolve false claims allegations


Lags Spine & Sportscare Medical Centers and its owner, Francis Lagattuta, MD, have agreed to pay $11.4 million to resolve allegations that they submitted false claims related to spine surgeries, skin biopsies and drug tests.

The settlement resolves allegations that from 2018 to 2021, the practice allegedly performed medically unecessary spinal cord stimulator surgeries, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California said July 11. For those cases, Dr. Lagattuta allegedly paid a psychiatrist to tell Medicare and Medicaid that patients recied an evaluation before the spine surgeries and didn't have any conditions that would affect their response to them.

Dr. Lagattuta also allegedly performed medically unecessary skin biopsies and medically unecessary urine drug tests. He allegedly created an "Artificial Intelligence Team" of staff who had to order at least 150 skin biopsies per week without patient consent, and the drug tests were ordered for all patients without regard to individual need.

Along with the settlement, Dr. Lagattuta agreed to a voluntary exclusion from federal healthcare programs for five years.

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