New York, Dec 16 (UiTV/IANS) – An Indian-American neurosurgeon has been sentenced to 60 months in federal prison for accepting approximately $3.3 million in bribes for performing spinal surgeries.
Lokesh S. Tantuwaya, 55, of San Diego, California, performed surgeries at a now-defunct hospital in Long Beach. He was sentenced by US District Judge Josephine L Staton, who also ordered him to forfeit his ill-gotten gains of $3.3 million, a Department of Justice statement noted.
Tantuwaya pleaded guilty on September 1 to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services mail and wire fraud and to receive illegal payments for health care referrals.
He has been in federal custody since May 2021 after he was found to have violated the terms of his pretrial release.
From 2010 to 2013, 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 specialised in spinal and orthopedic procedures, and its owner Drobot was sentenced to 63 months in prison in 2018 for his crimes in this scheme.
Drobot conspired with doctors, chiropractors and marketers to pay kickbacks and bribes in return for the referral of thousands of patients to Pacific Hospital for spinal surgeries and other medical services paid for primarily through the California workers’ compensation system.
During its final five years, the scheme resulted in the submission of more than $500 million in medical bills for spine surgeries involving kickbacks, the Department of Justice stated.
Tantuwaya entered into contracts with Drobot and Drobot-owned companies.
In his plea agreement, Tantuwaya admitted that he knew or deliberately was ignorant that the payments were being given to him in exchange for bringing his patient surgeries to the hospital.
He also confessed that he knew the receipt of money in exchange for the referral of medical service was illegal and that he owed a fiduciary duty to his patients to not accept money in exchange for taking their surgeries to Pacific Hospital.
In total, Tantuwaya received approximately $3.3 million in illegal payments.
“Despite his privileges at San Diego-area hospitals, (Tantuwaya) caused several patients to travel from Imperial County and San Diego County up to Pacific Hospital for spine surgery so that (Tantuwaya) could get his bribes,” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum.
The kickback scheme came to an end in April 2013 when law enforcement searched Pacific Hospital, which was sold later that year.
To date, 23 defendants have been convicted for participating in the scheme.
Indian-origin man gets jail for attacking Singapore official
An Indian-origin man has been sentenced to 11 years and nine months’ in prison in Singapore with nine strokes of the cane for attacking an enforcement officer with a sickle two years ago.
Vickneswaran Sivan, 32, attacked Certis enforcement officer Mohamad Afiq Mohamad Jamil, 29, on November 9, 2020, severely injuring and causing deep lacerations to the victim’s thigh and calf, The Straits Times reported.
Sivan flew into a rage when he saw his friend being issued a summons for smoking at the void deck of a block of flats in Canberra Link in Sembawang.
District Judge Marvin Bay, who handed down the sentence on Thursday, noted that Sivan had shown contempt towards authority.
“It would be a moral hazard if officers were deterred from fearlessly and conscientiously performing their functions, flowing from any concern that they might face physical harm… from the very individuals whose conduct and compliance they were policing,” he said.
In October, Sivan had pleaded guilty to seven charges, including voluntarily causing grievous hurt and causing hurt to a public servant, the paper reported.
The court heard that Sivan was drinking with two friends at a void deck of a Housing Board block in Canberra on November 9, 2020.
One of Sivan’s friends, a 41-year-old man, was holding a lit cigarette when Jamil, who was patrolling the area with a Certis auxiliary police officer, told them that they had committed an offence.
The auxiliary policeman issued the summons, which enraged Sivan.
He found a sickle with a curved blade that measured 16cm, and punched the auxiliary policeman’s face.
Following this, he slashed Jamil’s hands and legs at least four times with the sickle, and ran after the auxiliary policeman, who managed to escape.
Jamil was hospitalised for 141 days following the incident.
He is expected to make a full recovery, but will have permanent scars.Sivan, who was arrested the next day after the incident, was charged in court on November 11, 2020, and was released on bail.
In that period, he tortured hin seven-months pregnant wife by pulling her hair and bag.
In 2021, he assaulted her, causing multiple fractures, and stole $1,930 from her bank account.