SANTA ANA, California – An orthopedic surgeon was sentenced today to 15 months in federal prison for accepting nearly $623,000 in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for referring his patients to receive spinal surgeries at a corrupt Long Beach hospital.
Dr. Jeffrey David Gross, 55, who resides in Dana Point and Las Vegas, was sentenced by United States District Judge Josephine L. Staton, who also ordered him to forfeit $622,936. Gross pleaded guilty in August 2020 to one felony count of conspiracy to commit honest services mail and wire fraud.
The kickback scheme centered on Pacific Hospital in Long Beach, which specialized in surgeries, especially spinal and orthopedic procedures. The owner of Pacific Hospital, Michael D. Drobot, conspired with doctors, chiropractors and marketers to pay kickbacks in return for the referral of thousands of patients to Pacific Hospital for spinal surgeries and other medical services paid for primarily through the California workers’ compensation system.
During its final five years, the scheme resulted in the submission of more than $500 million in fraudulent medical bills. To date, 15 defendants have been convicted for participating in the kickback scheme.
From 2008 to 2013, Gross, a licensed neurosurgeon who operated Oasis Medical Providers Inc. in Laguna Niguel, agreed with Drobot to participate in a scheme to defraud patients of their right to honest services by accepting bribes and kickbacks that were paid to induce Gross to refer patients to Pacific Hospital for spinal surgeries and other medical services.
In February 2008, Gross agreed with Drobot to sublease Oasis’s medical office space to a Pacific Hospital-affiliated company, Pacific Specialty Physician Management Inc. (PSPM), in return for monthly payments of $15,000. In November 2008, Gross entered into an option contract with PSPM in which Oasis was paid $15,000 per month to purchase the accounts receivable and all other tangible assets of Oasis.
For both the sublease and option agreements, Gross knew and understood that one purpose of the agreements was to induce him to bring certain spinal surgery patients to Pacific Hospital, though that information wasn’t specified on the lease agreement, nor did Gross disclose that information to his patients.
PSPM paid Oasis $145,000 under the sublease agreement and $105,000 under the option agreement.
In April 2009, Gross entered into an outsourced collections agreement with Pacific Hospital that called for him to assist with collections on some of the spinal surgery cases that he performed at that hospital in exchange for 15 percent of any amounts the hospital collected in relation to those surgeries. This agreement, later amended, called for Gross to be paid 10 percent of the collected amount on other outpatient surgeries. During surgeries, if Gross used hardware from International Implants (I2), a Drobot-formed hardware distribution company, he was advanced $5,000 regardless of subsequent collections. Once again, Gross did not disclose this information to his patients. Pacific Hospital paid Oasis $372,936 under this agreement.
In total, between April 2008 and May 2013, Drobot paid Gross $622,936 pursuant to these agreements. During the same period, Gross referred dozens of patients to Pacific Hospital for spinal surgeries based in part on payments made to him under those agreements.
The FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation, California Department of Insurance, and the United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorneys Joseph T. McNally of the Violent and Organized Crime Section and Scott D. Tenley of the Santa Ana Branch Office prosecuted this case.