Former owner of Pacific Hospital gets 15 months in prison for kickback scheme

A former owner of Pacific Hospital in Long Beach was sentenced today to 15 months in federal prison for his part in a kickback scheme that led to more than $900 million in fraudulent billing, mostly to the state’s workers’ compensation program.

Dr. Faustino Bernadett, 65, of Rolling Hills, was also ordered by U.S. District Judge Josephine L. Staton to pay a $60,000 fine. The physician earlier forfeited $1 million to the government.

The doctor, who practiced anesthesiology and pain management, retired his license last year, prosecutors said. He pleaded guilty in August.

Another former owner, Michael D. Drobot, started the scheme that included doctors, chiropractors and others to pay kickbacks for referrals of patients to the hospital for spinal surgeries and other procedures that were mostly funded by the state, according to prosecutors.

Drobot sold the hospital to Bernadett in 2005, who found out about the kickback scheme in 2008 and kept it going until 2010, when he sold the hospital back to Drobot, prosecutors said.

From 2008 through 2010, the hospital doled out more than $30 million in kickbacks for about 1,400 spinal-fusion surgeries, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors charged 24 people in the scheme, with 15 convicted so far.

Drobot is serving a five-year prison sentence for paying more than $50 million in bribes to doctors. He is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 21 for violating a court forfeiture order by illegally selling luxury cars after he was sentenced for the bribery scheme, prosecutors said.

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