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Doc raked in $3.3M in wild spinal surgery scam, gets 5 years in prison

Patients left in “mental anguish” wondering “whether they needed a surgery.”

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Enlarge / Surgeons performing a spinal surgery in Nice, France. (credit: Getty | BSIP)

A federal judge in California has sentenced a neurosurgeon to five years in prison for his part in a multimillion-dollar, 15-year-long fraud scheme that used bribes and kickbacks to funnel thousands of patients to a now-defunct hospital where they were overcharged for invasive spinal surgeries.

The scam left patients questioning the quality of the medical devices now implanted into their spines, as well as whether they even needed surgery to begin with.

The neurosurgeon, Lokesh Tantuwaya, 55, of San Diego, is just the latest to be convicted and sentenced in the scheme, which ran from 1997 to 2013. In that time, dozens of medical professionals, including Tantuwaya as well as other surgeons, orthopedic specialists, and chiropractors, received sizable bribes and kickbacks for referring patients to and performing procedures at the Pacific Hospital of Long Beach.

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