LOS ANGELES – Two local physicians were indicted by a federal Grand Jury Thursday as part of Operation “Spinal Cap,” which targeted a long-running health care fraud scheme that generated nearly $1 billion in fraudulent claims to the federal government, the state of California, and private insurers. The scheme involved more than $40 million in illegal kickbacks paid to doctors and other medical professionals in exchange for referring thousands of patients who received surgeries and other services at Pacific Hospital.
Jacob Tauber, 66, of Beverly Hills, an orthopedic surgeon, and Serge Obukhoff, 62, of Malibu, a neurosurgeon, were charged for their roles in receiving illegal kickbacks to influence the referral of patients to Pacific Hospital. The indictment also includes honest services fraud and Travel Act charges against both Tauber and Obukhoff.
“These two physicians leveraged vulnerable patients to participate in a fraudulent kickback scheme,” said First Assistant United States Attorney Tracy Wilkison. “Their scheme violated their oaths as physicians as well as the law.”
According to the indictment, Tauber performed non-spinal surgeries and referred patients to other surgeons for procedures at Pacific Hospital of Long Beach. Obukhoff practiced out of various medical clinics in Southern California. Influenced by the promise of kickbacks and bribes, Tauber and Obukhoff caused patients with insurance or other covered claims to receive surgeries and services at Pacific Hospital.
In the same indictment, Tauber was separately charged with receiving illicit payments to refer urinalysis specimens to a specific lab.
“Today’s indictment should send a clear message to all health care providers that health care fraud is a federal crime that carries serious consequences and will not be tolerated.” said USPS-OIG Special Agent in Charge Brian Washington. “The USPS-OIG, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to aggressively investigate those who engage in fraudulent activities intended to defraud federal benefit programs and the Postal Service.”
The case is being investigated by the United States Postal Service, Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Ashwin Janakiram of the Major Frauds Section and Joseph T. McNally and Scott D. Tenley of the Santa Ana Branch Office.