Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles have charged nearly three dozen physicians, pharmacists and others alleged to have tried to bilk insurers out of $660 million in fraudulent health care bills.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced on June 28 it had filed 16 criminal cases against 33 Southern California defendants as part of a nationwide sweep to prosecute the alleged perpetrators of roughly $2 billion in health care fraud.

In the Los Angeles-based Central District, most of the medical professionals were charged with schemes to defraud health insurance programs such as Medicare. The alleged fraud included kickback schemes for surgeries, compounded drugs, home health services, Medicare Part D prescription drugs and hospice care.

“There is an incredible array of scams, some of which involve services that are never provided, and some of which use complicated and sophisticated ruses to conceal illegal acts, such as bribes,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison, in a statement.

Nine new charges unsealed this week were connected to an alleged $950 million spinal surgery kickback scheme at the defunct Pacific Hospital in Long Beach.

Prosecutors said former hospital owner Michael Drobot spearheaded the scheme, which involved more than $40 million in illegal kickbacks paid to doctors and medical professionals over 15 years in return for referring thousands of patients who received surgeries and other services. Drobot was sentenced in January to more than five years in federal prison.

See related story "Three More Physicians Charged in $580M Kickback Scheme at Pacific Hospital."

The doctors charged this week in “Operation Spinal Cap” will be arraigned next month in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana. They include:

  • Dr. Daniel Capen, 68, of Manhattan Beach, an orthopedic surgeon who agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and illegal kickback charges of $142 million.
  • Dr. Timothy Hunt, 53, of Palos Verdes Estates, an orthopedic surgeon, who agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy involving his receipt of illegal kickbacks.
  • George William Hammer, 65, of Palm Desert, the former chief financial officer of the physician management arm of Pacific Hospital, who agreed to plead guilty to tax charges based on the fraudulent classification of illegal kickbacks in corporate tax filings.
  • Lauren Papa, 52, of Tarzana, a chiropractor who agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy for her receipt of illegal kickbacks to refer patients.
  • Dr. Tiffany Rogers, 53, of Palos Verdes Estates, an orthopedic surgeon, named in connection with receiving illegal kickbacks to refer patients.
  • Brian Carrico, 64, of Redondo Beach, a chiropractor charged with his various companies in connection with receiving illegal kickbacks to influence the referral of patients linked to $80 million in claims.
  • William Parker, 64, of Redondo Beach, charged with the same kickback scheme involving Carrico and his companies.

Health business reporter Dana Bartholomew can be reached at dbartholomew@labusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @_DanaBart.