Indian American Surgeon Lokesh Tantuwaya Pleads Guilty For Accepting $3.3 Million in Illicit Payments at Corrupt Hospital
India-West News Desk
SAN DIEGO, CA – An Indian American neurosurgeon Lokesh Tantuwaya has pleaded guilty to a federal criminal charge for accepting approximately $3.3 million in bribes for performing spinal surgeries at a now-defunct Long Beach hospital whose owner later was imprisoned for committing a massive workers’ compensation system scam.
Tantuwaya, 55, of San Diego, said he accepted money from Michael Drobot, who owned Pacific Hospital in Long Beach, in exchange for Tantuwaya performing spinal surgeries at that hospital. The bribe amount varied depending on the type of spinal surgery.
Pacific Hospital in its final five years, the Department of Justice said, the scheme resulted in the submission of more than $500 million in medical bills for spine surgeries involving kickbacks.
Tantuwaya admitted in his plea agreement that he knew or deliberately was ignorant that the payments were being given to him in exchange for bringing his patient surgeries to Pacific Hospital.
In April 2013, law enforcement searched Pacific Hospital, which was sold later that year, bringing the kickback scheme to an end. To date, 23 defendants have been convicted for participating in the kickback scheme.
United States District Judge Josephine L. Staton scheduled a December 9 sentencing hearing, at which time Tantuwaya will face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.
The FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation, United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General, and the California Department of Insurance investigated this matter.