Patient Recruiter and Physician Plead Guilty in Bribery and Kickback Scheme in Connection with Transvaginal Mesh Litigation
Defendants Corrupted the Physician-Patient Relationship through Bribes and Kickbacks for Patient Referrals
Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, Christopher Walker, a licensed urogynecologist, pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme involving the payment of bribes and kickbacks to obtain referrals of female patients across the United States for surgeries to remove transvaginal mesh (TVM) implants. Wesley Blake Barber, an owner of Surgical Assistance Inc., pleaded guilty on September 14, 2021 to participating in the same scheme. Both proceedings took place before United States District Judge Raymond J. Dearie.
Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI) announced the guilty pleas.
“With these guilty pleas, both defendants have admitted to participating in a reprehensible bribery and kickback scheme to exploit women across the country in connection with costly transvaginal mesh removal surgeries,” stated Acting United States Attorney Kasulis. “This Office, the Department of Justice and the FBI are committed to investigating and prosecuting medical professionals and others who take advantage of vulnerable victims for their own illegal gain and personal profit.”
According to court filings and facts presented at the plea proceeding, Barber and Walker sought to profit in connection with lawsuits filed throughout the United States relating to alleged harm that TVM implants had caused female patients. The scheme sought to take advantage of the fact that female patients who had their TVM implants surgically removed were entitled to receive larger settlements than female patients whose inserts remained implanted. As part of the scheme, Walker and others paid kickbacks and bribes to Barber in exchange for the referral of female patients for these surgeries, including patients who traveled across the United States to undergo the surgeries.
When sentenced, Walker faces up to 10 years in prison and has agreed to forfeit approximately $800,000. Barber faces up to 5 years in prison and has agreed to forfeit approximately $1.1 million.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Elizabeth Geddes and Sarah Evans and Trial Attorney Andrew Estes of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
WESLEY BLAKE BARBER
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 19-CR-239 (RJD)