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Indian American Surgeon in California Pleads Guilty to Accepting $3.3 Million in Illicit Payments to Perform Spinal Surgeries

Indian American Surgeon in California Pleads Guilty to Accepting $3.3 Million in Illicit Payments to Perform Spinal Surgeries

  • Lokesh Tantuwaya, 55, of San Diego took money from Michael Drobot, who owned Pacific Hospital in Long Beach, in exchange for performing spinal surgeries there.

An Indian American surgeon in California has pleaded guilty to a federal criminal charge for accepting approximately $3.3 million in bribes for performing spinal surgeries at a now-defunct hospital. Lokesh Tantuwaya, 55, of San Diego, entered his plea on Sept. 1 to one to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and to violate the federal Anti-Kickback statute, according to the Department of Justice. He has been in federal custody since May 2021 after he was found to have violated the terms of his pretrial release.

Lokesh Tantuwaya is also an accomplished polo player (top photo, courtesy of San Diego polo magazine).

Citing his plea agreement and statements at the change-of-plea hearing, the DOJ noted that from 2010 to 2013, Tantuwaya accepted money from Michael Drobot, who owned Pacific Hospital in Long Beach, in exchange for performing spinal surgeries there. The bribe amount varied depending on the type of spinal surgery. 

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. He paid for them primarily through the California workers’ compensation system, the DoJ said. During its final five years, the scheme resulted in the submission of more than $500 million in medical bills for spine surgeries involving kickbacks.

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, the DoJ said. 

The kickback scheme ended on April 13, 2013, the DoJ said, after which the hospital was sold. ‚ÄúTo date, 23 defendants have been convicted for participating in the kickback scheme,‚ÄĚ it added. 

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According to a newspaper profile, Tantuwaya majored in Sanskrit and Buddhist literature as an undergraduate in college. He’s also a student pilot and an accomplished polo player. He was born in Bhopal and moved to suburban Chicago where he grew up.¬†

After getting a B.A. degree from Northwestern, he entered Northwestern’s Medical School, earning his M.D. in 1992, followed by internships in surgery and neuropathology at UCSD and neurosurgery residencies at UCSD and Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, Penn. He opened his private practice in San Diego in 1999. 

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  • We bloody indians migrating to western countries become also famous for two things apart from education that is sexual assault on women and extreme corruption thinking we are still in India and will go scot free because of our standing as an educated people

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