Accountant involved in spine surgery kickback scheme sentenced to prison

Carly Behm -  

A 69-year-old accountant who enabled a scheme allowing kickbacks for spine surgery referrals was sentenced to prison, the Justice Department said June 24.

George William Hammer pleaded guilty to one count of filing a false tax return in August 2018 and was sentenced to 15 months in prison. He will also have to pay an $8,000 fine and forfeit $500,000 in profits from the scheme.

Mr. Hammer was the financial officer for companies controlled by former Long Beach, Calif.-based Pacific Hospital owner Michael Drobot. Mr. Drobot conspired with doctors, chiropractors and marketers to pay kickbacks in exchange for spine surgery referrals. In the last five years of the scheme, more than $500 million in bills for surgeries related to the bribes and kickbacks were submitted.

Starting in 1997, Mr. Hammer facilitated payments to people receiving bribes and kickbacks via sham contracts that concealed illicit payments. He falsified tax returns and characterized the bribes as legitimate business expenses.

Mr. Drobot was sentenced to prison in 2018. Two of the spine surgeons involved with the kickback scheme were sentenced to prison in 2019 and 2021.

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