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White Collar Crimes in California

“OPERATION SPINAL CAP”

Many people think of crimes as acts of violence that causes harm to others, but there is probably just as much harm done by white-collar criminals—and sometimes these criminals are even wearing a white coat. Consider the scheme involving numerous doctors, hospital administrators (including a hospital CEO and CFO), chiropractors, and other healthcare professionals at Long Beach Pacific Hospital.

So far, at least nine healthcare workers and administrators have pleaded guilty to charges related to this healthcare scheme that ran into the hundreds of millions of dollars wherein doctors and other health professionals were paid illegal kickbacks to refer patients to Pacific Hospital in Long Beach. Even ex- state Senator Ron Calderon is implicated by the former CEO of Pacific Hospital, Michael Drobot Sr., an Orange County resident, who told authorities that he paid bribes to the senator while he was still in office to support legislation that would have directly affected the scheme.

The scheme was fairly simple: Doctors, chiropractors, medical marketers and others referred patients, most of whom were receiving care on workers’ compensation claims, to Pacific Hospital for spinal surgeries, which were billed at inflated costs to the federal and state workers compensation systems. Typically the kickback was $15,000 for lumbar fusion surgery or $10,000 for cervical fusion surgery paid for each such referral completed at Pacific Hospital. The patients were unaware that Pacific Hospital was paying a “referral fee” for services performed at that hospital.

These types of kickbacks are illegal but you might be thinking, what’s the big deal? Well, to begin with, many of the patients referred to Pacific Hospital lived hundreds of miles away and there were much closer facilities that could perform the surgeries. Secondly, the scheme involved collecting payments, often at inflated and deceptive billings. If the hospital is paying 10-15 thousand dollars for each referral, the hospital is going to recover that money somehow and here it was recovered through inflated billings or other deceptive practices. Furthermore, I would ask you: Would you want to know that you are being referred to a hospital for major surgery because your doctor was getting paid to send you there? Personally, I’d rather my doctor refer me based on what is best for my condition not what is best for his or her bank account. And finally, health care fraud and kickback schemes burden us all because they drive up the cost of healthcare.

The list of potential white collar criminal charges in the federal and California prosecutors’ arsenals is extensive; you have probably not even heard of many of them. The U.S. Attorney has charged those involved in this scheme with a number of federal crimes including conspiracy, mail fraud, honest services fraud, money laundering, and paying or receiving kickbacks. These are serious charges that carry sentences as severe, or in some cases, even more severe, than many violent crimes.

 

If you are being investigated or have been charged with a “white collar” crime, you should seek the advice and assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney experienced in defending these matters will often make the difference between a bad outcome and a better one —even if you chose to plead guilty as many white collar criminals do. William Weinberg is an experienced criminal defense attorney who can advise you regarding any criminal defense matter, including white collar crime. You can contact Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney William Weinberg at 949-474-8008 or at www.bill@williamweinberg.com.