According to a report from the Del Mar Times, a Southern California surgeon has pled guilty to taking illegal kickbacks and defrauding the state’s workers’ compensation claims system. Lokesh S. Tantuwaya, 55 of San Diego, allegedly accepted more than $3 million in bribes as part of a more complex healthcare fraud scheme. In this blog post, our Fresno workers’ compensation defense attorney discusses the workers’ compensation fraud allegations in more detail.
Lokesh S. Tantuwaya is a neurosurgeon who performed spinal surgeries at a hospital in Long Beach, California called the Pacific Hospital. That hospital is no longer operating and its former owner has been indicted as part of a massive workers’ compensation fraud scheme. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California reports that Dr. Tantuwaya accepted at least $3.3 million in illicit payments.
Dr. Tantuwaya has pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the federal anti-kickback statute. There are strict federal laws in place that prohibit doctors and other medical providers from accepting “kickbacks” in exchange for providing or recommending certain medical services. Dr. Tantuwaya has been detained since 2021 after allegedly violating the terms of his pre-trial release. He is currently awaiting sentencing in December 2022 and faces up to five years in federal prison.
The criminal charges against the Southern California neurosurgeon are just the latest in this massive, $500 million workers’ compensation fraud case. Between 1997 and 2013, Michael D. Drobot owned and operated the Pacific Hospital in Long Beach, California. He was eventually arrested, charged with, and convicted of one of the largest workers’ compensation fraud schemes in the history of California.
According to the findings of state and federal investigators, the hospital operated a long-running health care fraud scheme through which thousands of patients were referred for and received spinal surgeries that were eventually billed to the California workers’ compensation program. In all, investigators estimated that $500 million in fraudulent charges were billed to workers’ compensation. Dr. Tantuwaya received illegal kickbacks as part of this billing fraud from 2010 through 2013.
Workers’ compensation fraud remains a very serious issue in California. It costs the system an enormous amount of money each year. All parties that play by the rules—including employees, employers, and insurers—end up bearing far higher costs because of the wrongful conduct of others engaged in workers’ compensation fraud.
At Yrulegui & Roberts, our Fresno workers’ compensation defense lawyers strive to resolve cases in an efficient, cost-effective manner. If you have questions about defending workers’ compensation fraud, we can help. Reach out to us by phone or contact us online to set up a fully confidential consultation. We provide workers’ compensation defense representation in fraud cases throughout Central California.