Neurosurgeon found not guilty in $500M kickback case

Alan Condon -  

A jury on Aug. 13 found Serge Obukhoff, MD, not guilty on all 35 counts of conspiracy and healthcare fraud in an indictment related to an alleged $500 million kickback scheme at Pacific Hospital in Long Beach, Calif.

A federal grand jury had alleged that the hospital's former owner, Michael Drobot Sr., paid $2.3 million in kickbacks to Dr. Obukhoff to direct his spine surgery patients to Pacific Hospital. The indictment also alleged that the neurosurgeon accepted illegal kickbacks in the form of free rent and a paid medical directorship with the now-defunct Willow Medical Group as inducement to direct spine cases to Monrovia (Calif.) Hospital.

Attorneys for Dr. Obukhoff argued that the surgeon believed the $2.3 million was paid to him as part of an option agreement for a management company to buy his medical practice and that an attorney for the management company told him the agreement was "legal, valid and customary," according to an Aug. 14 news release.

Dr. Obukhoff testified that he performed more than 1,000 spine surgeries at the hospital before the option agreement and that he was not aware of the alleged 15-year healthcare fraud engineered by Mr. Drobot and Michael Tichon, the attorney for the management company.

The surgeon told the court that he was lied to by Mr. Drobot and Mr. Tichon, that his directorship at Willow Medical Group was valid and that he never sought out or received kickbacks in the form of free rent.

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