Accountant Sentenced in Spine Surgery Kickback Scheme
The hits keep coming for those involved in California’s notorious “Spinal Cap” kickback scheme. This time an accountant involved in the scheme, George William Hammer, was sentenced for filing a false tax return related to the scheme.
The United States District Judge sentenced Hammer to 15 months in federal prison. Hammer must also pay a fine in the amount of $8,000 and forfeit, per the Department of Justice press release, “$500,000 in proceeds from the scheme.”
The Spinal Cap scheme involved Michael Drobot, the owner of Long Beach, California-based Pacific Hospital. As part of the scheme, Drobot paid more than $40 million in illegal kickbacks to countless individuals including doctors. The kickbacks ensured that thousands of patients were referred to the hospital for spinal surgery paid for mainly by California workers’ compensation system. It also resulted in over $500 million in bills being submitted for, according to the press release, “kickback tainted surgeries.”
Drobot controlled a number of companies where Hammer was the financial officer. According to the press release, Hammer supported the kickback scheme by “facilitating payments to individuals receiving bribes and kickbacks pursuant to sham contracts that were used to conceal the illicit payments.” Additionally, “Hammer falsified tax returns by characterizing the bribes as legitimate business expenses.” While Hammer was a salaried employee, he “did not directly profit from the kickbacks and bribes.”
Presently, 22 individuals have been convicted for their roles in the kickback scheme. A number of those who have pled guilty for their role in the scheme are orthopedic surgeons. Others involved in the scheme include chiropractors, marketers, and even Drobot’s own son.
For OTW’s previous coverage of the Spinal Cap scheme, see “Ortho Surgeon Sentenced To 15 Months in Prison,” “The Taxman Cometh for Spinal Cap Crooks,” “Spine Surgeons Pleading Guilty in Spinal Cap Investigation,” and “More Cases Emerge From FBI’s California ‘Spinal Cap’ Investigation.”